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Deerfield may postpone town meeting

Wants more time to find money to cover projected shortfall

SOUTH DEERFIELD –— To give the town time to scrape up enough money to cover a projected budget shortfall for next year, the town is considering postponing the annual town meeting a few weeks.

The town is short $170,096 by latest estimates of the selectmen, and is considering a Proposition 2½ tax cap override.

It is one of many options the town is considering to balance next year’s budget. The town meeting is scheduled for April 25.

“We’re trying to get a handle on how bad our budget is,” said selectmen’s Chairman Mark Gilmore.

The selectmen have asked for an interpretation from the town’s lawyer, Lisa Mead of Blatman, Bobrowski and Mead, to determine whether the town can postpone the April 25 town meeting and what the protocol would be.

Gilmore, who is the town moderator, suggested the town could open the town meeting and reconvene again before the end of the fiscal year on July 1.

Since the School Committee reduced its budget request this week, the selectmen said it’s now up to the municipal departments to close the gap somehow.

“We’re going back to the town departments to ask if there is any place they can take out of to bring the numbers in control,” Gilmore said.

While many of the departments limited their budgets to 2 percent increases or level funded, Gilmore said there are a few options on the table. There are programs, Gilmore said, that the town has carried for some time that may not be necessary. He would not say what the programs were.

The estimated budget is $14,651,717. This is an increase of $1,145,564 or 9.2 percent over the current year.

This figure represents a reduction of $92,951 made by the Deerfield Elementary School Committee. Revenues are estimated at $14,481,621.

These numbers are based on data from the selectmen and town administrator. A previous Recorder story used figures based on the Finance Committee’s data. The data differ in the amounts of surplus to be used as revenue. The administrator’s budget uses all the $819,655 available “free cash” surplus, while the Finance Committee’s uses $500,000.

Part of the budget increase is due to the town making its first payment for the new highway garage. The town would have to pay $496,417 for the principal and interest debt. However, payment for the new facility has no impact on the possible override. The town voted to support $4.9 million two years ago for the garage through a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion.

The budget is also increasing by $77,818 due to health insurance. About 10 employees joined the town’s health insurance plan this year, which the town did not plan for.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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