New Salem passes $3M budget, political resolution

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2019 6:44:44 PM

NEW SALEM — A $3 million budget and a resolution to limit the influence of money in politics were among 41 articles voted at this year’s Annual Town Meeting.

Residents passed the recommended budget of $3,041,417, an $88,718 (3 percent) increase over this year’s $2,952,699 budget. The budget, as with all articles, goes into effect in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

Most of the budget (59 percent) will go toward education, specifically Swift River School, which the town shares as an elementary school with Wendell. Swift River saw increased costs this year in the areas of special education and health insurance, similar to other area schools.

In the last five years, Swift River’s budget has increased by 31 percent. However, Chapter 70 funding — state money to public schools — has only increased 7 percent in the same time frame. Alongside these increases, special education costs have increased by 55 percent, leading some, like Wendell Finance Committee Chairman Doug Tanner, to lobby the state for more special education funding.

Aside from the budget, residents voted to allow $618,993 to be expended by the Swift River School Committee on the replacement of windows and doors. The town has already applied for a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to cover that cost.

Capping off the warrant was an article asking residents to take a stand against “the unregulated influence of money,” which has “degraded the fairness and efficacy of our elections at every government level,” the warrant reads.

The article is a resolution, authored by Represent U.S., a nonpartisan grassroots movement that seeks legislation at state and federal levels to limit “the influence of money in politics and promote free and fair elections.”

Legally, the article means the town of New Salem makes the following statement: “We support legislation that will forestall the influence of money in our elections through measures such as limiting the access of lobbyists, mandating full transparency in campaign financing, adopting public campaign financing, instituting automatic voter registration, ending gerrymandering and instituting ranked choice voting, to encourage civic participation and ensure fair representation in this most vital of our democratic institutions.”

The article also requires letters be sent to state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, reiterating the town’s support for the resolution, the warrant states.

Other articles

The town voted to allow the following amounts to be raised or transferred from available funds:

■$57,000 for Highway Department snow removal and winter road maintenance

■$53,385 for loan payments on the town fire truck

■$50,000 for the vehicle replacement stabilization fund

■$40,000 for debt payments on the broadband project

■$29,755 for Highway Barn loan payments

■$17,645 for Ralph C. Mahar Regional School construction project payments

■$17,547 for roof and boiler loan payments at Swift River School

■$12,390 for library construction loan payments

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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