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Buckland eyes spending hikes

BUCKLAND — If all spending requests are approved at Wednesday night’s annual town meeting, residents could see a net increase of $58 on each $100,000 worth of property value, according to the Finance Committee.

The annual town meeting will be held at the Mohawk Trail Regional High School, beginning at 7 p.m.

In a memorandum put out by the Finance Committee, the board pointed out that, after years of keeping the budget to a bare minimum, “we are finding ... very few areas where savings can be found and more areas where we need to invest ...”

Although revenues have increased, due to increased “free cash” surplus and the town’s use of stabilization funds to offset the cost of vehicle purchases, the combined town and schools budget has increased by $397,861, or nearly 10 percent.

The Mohawk school district operating assessment has increased by $50,619 for the coming year, and this finance committee is the third in the district to disapprove of the budget request, along with Shelburne and Ashfield. Originally, the school’s budget subcommittee had recommended a budget that was $80,000 less, but the full school committee added this sum after pressure to restore program cuts. To budget for Mohawk’s higher assessment, the town would have to borrow more money for a new truck or cut summer highway help, which would put the town behind on summer road repairs.

The requested Highway Department truck is a single-axle dump truck, with an all-season body and power-reversing snow plow, costing $158,000. It is to replace a 1995 dump truck that is in extremely bad condition. About $98,000 of the cost is to come from the Highway Stabilization Account, with the town to borrow the remaining $60,000.

Buckland is also asking for a new police cruiser, to replace the 2004 Crown Victoria that has 110,000 miles. About $32,200 of the cost is to come from the Police Stabilization Account, while the remaining $2,800 is to be raised.

The requested town operating budget of $1,599,234 represents a 6 percent, $90,000 increase over the current budget. This includes a 1.9 percent cost-of-living raise for town employees and an increase in assessors clerk’s hours, from 20 to 28 hours per week.

The increase is also due to a $2,000 increase in insurance and bonds, and an assessment increase for the Franklin Regional Retirement System. The cost for fuel for the police cruisers includes a $2,000 increase, although town officials believe the new cruiser will improve fuel efficiency.

Another source of the increase is $5,000 more for hot- and cold-patch for the highway repairs and a $30,000 increase for summer help, for road work, brush clearing and for working during full-time crew members’ vacations.

Roughly $2,000 has been added to the Buckland Library and to the Arms Library budgets. For Buckland Library, the cost is for salary adjustments; for Arms Library, it is to “catch up” after holding all costs level last year. It includes pay for a two-hour per week increase in the assistant librarian’s hours, a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and a 5 percent increase in the operating budget.

Voters will be asked to extend the town’s moratoriums on any size electricity-generating wind turbines and on solar photovoltaic systems that generate more than 35 kilowatts of electricity. The purpose of extending these moratoriums is to give the Planning Board more time to “address the effects of such structures” ... and enact bylaws consistent with sound land-use.

Voters will also be asked to support a resolution that asks Baystate Health Systems officials to commit to keeping Baystate Franklin Medical Center a “full-service community hospital.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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