Buckland voters to consider revised budgets for schools, wastewater and winter road treatment

  • Buckland Town Moderator Phoebe Walker speaks at Annual Town Meeting in June. Special Town Meeting will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Mohawk Trail Regional School parking lot. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

For the Recorder
Published: 9/24/2020 1:25:21 PM
Modified: 9/24/2020 1:25:11 PM

BUCKLAND — Voters at Special Town Meeting on Saturday will be asked to consider an eight-article warrant, most notably including a revised fiscal year 2021 budget assessment for the Mohawk Trail Regional School District.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the Mohawk Trail Regional School parking lot. Check-in will begin at 9 a.m. Attendees will be stationed in alternating parking spaces and rows to allow for social distancing. All residents are asked to wear a mask.

The motion to raise and appropriate the re-assessed school district budget will be voted on by Buckland as well as other towns in the school district. Buckland’s contribution was originally approved at about $2.4 million at Annual Town Meeting in June. On Saturday, voters will be asked to approve a revised assessment of $2.7 million.

Mohawk Trail Regional School has chosen fully remote instruction this fall, so Heather Butler, town administrator, expects that the article will “raise budgetary questions from people who want an explanation as to how a school operating remotely has expenses comparable to a fully in-person one.”

The School Committee and school administrators will be present and prepared to answer questions, she said.

Other business includes a vote to raise the Wastewater Treatment Facility budget, as detailed in Article 3 on the warrant. According to Butler, the town is calling for an additional $5,000 to be appropriated to provide a raise to the operator and his assistant.

“We realized that when we have to replace him it will be a difficult position to replace at the current salary rate,” Butler explained.

With the facility supported by an enterprise fund and not tax dollars, Buckland and Shelburne — which share the facility and therefore any costs — are looking to raise the budget incrementally to avoid giving residents surprising sewer bills in the future, she said.

Concerning scheduling, Article 6 seeks to increase flexibility in decision-making by allowing the possibility to amend zoning bylaws at Special Town Meetings, rather than only during Annual Town Meetings in the spring. Article 7 proposes that meetings be permanently moved from Wednesdays to Saturdays, and that all elections be moved from Mondays to Tuesdays to improve turnout.

“We’re hoping that more residents would be able to attend on a Saturday morning and that more people would remember to vote on a Tuesday,” Butler said.

Other articles pertaining to budget allocation include Article 5, which seeks to approve moving $78,499 to the stabilization account, otherwise known as the “rainy day fund,” for future need.

“This balance is the remainder of the town’s free cash that was not appropriated for what we could consider essential capital expenses,” Butler said.

The town is also looking to add additional funding to the winter roads budget, covered in Article 2, to match it with fiscal year 2020. According to Butler, the town is looking to allocate an additional $15,000 for plowing and treating to keep roads safe this winter.

Butler said no action will be taken on Article 8 that was detailed in the warrant concerning animal control bylaws. Instead, a public hearing will be held in the spring to give residents more information before voting at the next Annual Town meeting.

The full warrant can be found at bit.ly/32XxruZ. There is no rain date scheduled.

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