Bernardston approves Pioneer assessment, squad truck purchase

  • Around 90 Bernardston voters gathered at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Thursday for Bernardston’s annual town meeting. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Bernardston Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Dutcher explains the budget during Bernardston’s annual town meeting, held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Thursday. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/11/2017 11:21:37 PM

BERNARDSTON — Despite initial reservations from the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, Bernardston residents approved Pioneer Valley Regional School District’s funding request at town meeting Thursday night, a 2.21 percent increase from this year’s assessment of nearly $2.8 million.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Dutcher said previously that the projected tax rate, given a favorable Pioneer vote, will be $19.92 per $1,000 valuation, compared to this year’s $19.63.

Still, the vote, involving around 90 residents, was not without discontent regarding raises for administrators, part of the Pioneer budget. For example, Assistant Superintendent Gail Healy would receive a $13,000 raise, including annuity.

“I think that kind of an increase is really inappropriate,” Bernardston resident Tom Newton said, noting the superintendent and assistant superintendent’s six-digit salaries.

Fire Dept. squad truck

Voters also approved the purchase of a $42,000 squad truck for the Fire Department. Fire Chief Peter Shedd explained the plan is to get rid of his chief’s vehicle, and then use the department’s current squad truck as the chief’s vehicle.

“It doesn’t run anymore,” Shedd said of the 2006 Ford Explorer he had been using. “The mechanics say it’s not worth putting money into.”

Though the vote to get a new squad truck passed, there were some concerns about allowing Shedd to use the current squad truck as the chief’s vehicle. Planning Board Chairwoman Christina Wysk was concerned it might be against protocols the town is supposed to follow as a Green Community.

“They’re pretty specific about what a town can do with its vehicles,” Wysk explained. “It’s kind of a gray area that needs to be looked at.”

Additional matters

With setting aside money being a key theme of the meeting, residents approved allocating $175,000 for three stabilization accounts, with $80,000 going toward bridge repair. An additional $25,000 of free cash will be used to establish an Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) account to offer benefits other than pensions to the town’s retired employees, and $20,000 will fund an employee retirement and separation account.

Other articles that were approved involve: installing a $5,000 mini-split system on the lower level of the Senior Center and using another $2,450 for sidewalk repairs; increasing the town’s local room occupancy excise from 4 to 6 percent; using $3,000 of free cash to join the Mosquito Control District; allowing the tax collector to periodically alert town officials about residents who neglected to pay taxes regardless of the amount of time they’ve been delinquent in payment; and having special permits lapse 36 months after approval instead of 24 months.




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