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Warwick approves its share of Pioneer budget

9.74 percent increase of $66,807

WARWICK — Voters approved a 9.74 percent increase to the town’s share of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District budget at the Warwick annual town meeting.

The town’s Finance Committee had recommended that the town approve a lower share of $702,932, which would have been a 2.5 percent increase. Instead, Monday’s annual town meeting approved the district’s requested assessment of $752,594. The town’s share of the current school year budget was $685,787.

If either Bernardston or Leyden approve the district’s requested amounts at their upcoming town meetings, it will cement the district’s $14.1 million proposed budget.

For a lower school budget to pass, at least two towns must vote for amounts less than the district’s recommended assessment. Leyden votes next, on May 17, and Bernardston will hold its annual meeting May 21.

Warwick voters decided to pass over an article that could have defeated the district’s $400,000 plan to upgrade computer equipment and software, including servers and user-end computers. The district plans to borrow the $400,000 for a five-year term, with each town paying a percentage based on its share of the district budget. Warwick’s share would be $8,264 per year, with payments to begin in fiscal year 2016.

A single “no” vote can defeat the borrowing. Northfield approved the request. If it is not rejected by either Bernardston or Leyden, the district will bring in a consultant to review the plan, identify potential savings, and make sure the upgrades will meet future needs.

Northfield voters also met Monday, and approved both their requested school assessment and the technology replacement debt. Leyden and Bernardston have yet to vote on either issue.

The Warwick Community School will get a new roof, after voters approved the borrowing of $155,000 for the project. Town Coordinator David Young said he thinks the actual roof repairs will come in at less than that amount. He said the extra will allow the town to fix issues with air sealing and the building’s chimney, which will be more accessible while the roof is being repaired.

Rather than put $40,000 of prior grant money into the town’s stabilization fund, voters amended an article to instead put the money toward next year’s expenses to lower the tax burden. Voters also approved $35,922 of this year’s “free cash” surplus toward next year’s budget, as well as lesser amounts from other sources.

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