Decreased budget with salary increase on Bernardston Town Meeting warrant

  • Attendees of the 2016 Bernardston Annual Town Meeting fill the Pioneer Valley Regional School auditorium. This year’s meeting will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Bernardston Elementary School gymnasium. Staff File Photo/Matt Burkhartt

Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2020 12:29:59 PM

BERNARDSTON — This year’s Annual Town Meeting will ask voters to approve a 1.6 percent increase to town employee salaries as well as other essential budget items ahead of the new fiscal year, which will see an overall budget decrease.

The Annual Town Meeting will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Bernardston Elementary School gymnasium. Residents are asked to wear masks and arrive at 6 p.m. as health safety precautions will result in a slower check-in process than usual. Once voters check in, they will be asked to remain in their assigned seats until the meeting is over.

During a Selectboard meeting this week, members reviewed the warrant.

“The Selectboard and Finance Committee is, I think, in total agreement with all the articles that are presented,” Selectboard member Robert Raymond said.

Finance Committee Chair Jane Dutcher said the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is about $5.3 million, a decrease from the current budget of $5.5 million. If approved, the budget will include $3.2 million for Bernardston’s contribution to the Pioneer Valley Regional School District’s total $14.3 million budget.

Article 5 asks voters to fix the salaries of all elected officials for fiscal year 2021 by raising through taxes roughly $473,481, transferring from free cash $30,000 and transferring from the newsletter revolving fund $800 for a total of $504,281. Selectboard members will see no change to their stipends, but town employees who earn a salary, such as Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux, will see an increase. Changes to particular town departments are shown in a table on the warrant.

“It is a 1.6 percent increase, which we have managed to give to all of our employees over last year’s amount of money,” Raymond said.

According to the warrant, Town Clerk Paul Luther’s hours will be decreased to 16 hours per week with a salary of $14,976, roughly $1,800 less than the current fiscal year. Assistant Town Clerk Christina Wysk’s hours will increase to eight hours per week with a salary of $5,824, an increase of $1,155.

Selectboard Chair Stanley Garland recognized the work Luther has done as town clerk, and said he worked with the Selectboard to create the new schedule. Raymond said the Finance Committee and Selectboard recommend the 24 hours be served by two people, because once an individual goes over the 20-hour limit, the town must pay benefits.

Another article asks voters to allocate roughly $909,360 for public services, which includes the operating expenses, regular stipends and 1.6 percent payroll increase for employees of the Highway Department, Northfield EMS, the Police Department and the Fire Department.

Additionally, the $909,360 figure includes increased expenses for the Transfer Station, totally $121,803. Some changes are a result of the pending increase of recycling costs. Starting July 1, Raymond explained, Bernardston will be charged $97.50 per ton to have its recyclable material removed from the Transfer Station.

Voters will also be asked to appropriate $10,000 to outfit an F-350 squad truck for the Fire Department, and $55,000 for a new radio system.

If approved, another article would allow the Selectboard to borrow up to $190,000 to buy a Freightliner truck for the Highway Department. Garland said the vehicle being replaced is in “very poor condition” and requires a new anti-lock braking system, among other expensive repairs.

While Tuesday’s warrant focuses on monetary articles, Bordeaux said the town anticipates holding a Special Town Meeting in the fall to address other town business.

To view the full Annual Town Meeting warrant, visit

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