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Sunderland balances budget

SUNDERLAND — Just days before annual town meeting, the Board of Selectmen has balanced the town budget proposal for next year.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen made last-minute reductions and relied on surplus to cover a $91,198 budget hole. The town is using $26,249 of its surplus.

The Sunderland Elementary School Committee also reduced its budget request by $52,980 to help close the gap between expected income and expenses.

At Friday’s annual town meeting, residents will be asked to support a $6,973,521 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The annual town meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Sunderland Elementary School.

Residents will be asked to weigh in on 31 articles from the general operating budget to Community Preservation Act money to highway and ambulance funds.

There are several requests for Community Preservation Act money.

Townspeople will be asked to spend $20,458 from the CPA fund to support the restoration and rehabilitation of the softball field at the Sunderland Elementary School, which would be named Merritt Field after the late school principal, Timothy Merritt. The selectmen and finance committee backed the request.

The town will be asked to spend $95,578 of CPA money to resurface, remodel and equip the existing playground on the Sunderland Elementary School property on Swampfield Drive.

The project to upgrade the 17-year-old playground is backed by the Sunderland Elementary School Playground Committee.

The Community Preservation Committee had a split 3-3 vote on the project, while the selectmen voted 2-1. The Finance Committee recommended against the project, 4-1.

Another $33,650 of CPA money would be used to fund the design and restoration of the town office front entry, and $10,000 would be used to fund a Phase 1 study for a pedestrian and bicycle pathway system connecting the town’s public properties and natural assets.

Townspeople will be asked to pay $77,683 for the South County Emergency Medical Service to cover the remainder of the fiscal year. Due to the delayed implementation of the regional service, the town’s total appropriation for the regional service decreased from $155,367 to $77,683.

Townspeople will be asked to pay $83,290 for a one-time cost of teacher retirements for the Sunderland Elementary School.

A citizen petition asks the town to revise the existing setback bylaw that requires all structures to be at least 20 feet from an abutting property. The setback would be reduced to 10 feet for accessory buildings and only apply to portions of town that are not on town water and sewer. According to the petition, the existing setback is too restrictive and discriminatory to residents with septic systems.

The selectmen don’t support the petition, while the Planning Board abstained.

The town will also be asked to:

∎  Approve $12,500 for the highway snow/ice budget.

∎  Authorize $12,415 for veterans benefits.

∎  Approve $4,600 for a municipal technology audit.

∎  Approve $4,460 to pay the remaining cost of the History of Sunderland Volume III publication.

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

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