Sunderland looking to fill $91,198 gap in budget

SUNDERLAND — With two weeks left to draft a final budget, the Board of Selectmen is working to fill a $91,198 hole.

With increases across the budget from government expenses, public safety and schools, the operational budget is increasing by $227,351 over the current year.

The proposed budget for next year is $7,032,860. Anticipated revenue is $6,941,662.

A Proposition 2½ override is off the table. The selectmen voted last week to not have an override. Instead, the selectmen have asked town departments to look at their budgets again before the annual town meeting on April 25.

The biggest increase to the budget is the 3.6 percent hike in school costs. The Sunderland Elementary School budget is increasing $61,248 and the town’s share of the Frontier Regional School budget is increasing $144,537. Its bills to Franklin County Technical School decreased by $62,401 due to decreased enrollment.

Sunderland selectmen’s Chairman Scott Bergeron attributed the budget increase to education costs and declining state aid.

The selectmen have solicited the Sunderland Elementary School Committee for support at a joint finance and selectboard meeting Monday.

“We want to ask for your help and encourage your involvement,” Bergeron said.

School Committee members agreed to work with the town and come up with some savings at their next meeting on Tuesday.

“It’s important for people to understand when we make a cut, it means a program or a teacher and it means kids would leave,” said School Committee member Aimee Smith-Zeoli.

Other increases include $19,758 for government and town building expenses, $29,853 for public safety and fire, $15,836 for town benefits and insurance and $14,609 in reserves due to expected increases in veterans benefits payments.

The town is not alone in trying to fill a budget shortfall. Across the river, Deerfield is also grappling with an estimated $170,000 shortfall.

The last time the town had a tax override was in 2011.

(Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)

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