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Still no Pioneer budget after Bernardston vote

Depending on state figures, district budget may go to special town meetings

BERNARDSTON — The town nearly passed a 4 percent increase to its share of the school district budget at this week’s annual town meeting.

An amendment to add $34,000 to the $2.3 million proposed share of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District was defeated 39-35 Wednesday in a paper ballot vote.

The amendment was debated at length, but in the end, the town passed the $2.3 million, 2.5 percent increased assessment that appeared on the warrant.

Other Pioneer towns of Northfield and Warwick each approved maximum 4 percent increases to their assessments. The School Committee, after considering a 5.7 percent increased overall assessment, decided not to increase any town’s assessment by more than 4 percent, as it continued to wait for state aid and minimum town contribution figures.

State figures will dictate what percent of the local share of the school budget each town must pay. The School Committee asked each town to approve a maximum 4 percent increase to its assessment, so that, when state numbers are available, whichever is stuck with the biggest share of the budget will have pre-approved a 4 percent increase in its assessment.

Bernardston could be headed to a special town meeting, if it winds up being the town asked to pay a 4 percent hike.

To pass a budget, the district needs three of four member towns to approve their assessments. If the increases approved in three of the four towns are equal to or greater than their shares of the total assessment, the school budget can move forward.

Leyden is asking for a level-funded $775,407 assessment, after early state figures projected a possible drop of about $100,000 in the town’s share, due to lowered district enrollment from the town. Leyden passed over its school budget vote at its May 18 annual town meeting, and will take it up on June 24 when the meeting reconvenes.

Towns’ assessments are subject to change, depending on their percentages. However, if no town’s share is more than it approved at its meeting, it will require no more action on towns’ parts.

Until the Legislature comes to an agreement on state aid and minimum contributions, nobody knows which town will see the maximum 4 percent increase, and how much the other three towns’ shares will be.

The fiscal year will begin on July 1, and the state must have a budget in place by then; whether it’s nailed down by the time Leyden meets on June 24 is anyone’s guess.

The School Committee is next scheduled to meet June 27. Once final figures are available from the state, the committee must vote on new assessments and the total budget. Superintendent Dayle Doiron said an earlier meeting could be called, if the state budget is approved before Leyden’s meeting, thereby giving the town a concrete picture of the district budget and its own share.

School capital requests approved by Bernardston Wednesday were:

∎ $1,500 for a faucet hydrant at Pioneer.

∎ $2,550 for a backup well pump at Pioneer.

∎ $2,400 for a backup air conditioner for Pioneer’s technology head end room.

∎ $25,000 to replace carpeting with tiles at Bernardston Elementary School.

Bernardston voters defeated:

∎ $15,000 for a security camera, monitor, and door buzzer system, and handicapped accessible door opener, for the front entrance of BES.

∎ $4,500 for a front door alarm system at Pioneer.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

BERNARDSTON — Though the school district budget was the hot topic at Wednesday’s annual town meeting, several non school-related votes were taken as well. Voters approved changing the name of the administrative assistant’s position to town administrator, to better reflect the roles and responsibilities of the position. Voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to allow restaurants to serve alcohol beginning … 0

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