Orange SelectboardOKs revised budget with cuts

  • FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2019 5:21:06 PM
Modified: 10/11/2019 5:20:53 PM

ORANGE — The Selectboard has approved recommendation of a new budget that includes cuts to several departments including the schools, police and the armory. 

The new budget, totaling $21,174,264.07, will be voted at the Special Town Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

“We are reducing town budgets. Because the override failed we are not just making do, we are actually cutting town budgets. People need to be aware of that,” Town Administrator and Treasurer Gabriele Voelker said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It will put a strain on us, and I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to deal with it, but we will.”

The budget Orange residents approved at the Annual Town Meeting in June is nullified, having been dependent on a Proposition 2½ tax override passing to allow the town to raise an additional $513,972 in taxes to cover its expenses. 

The override vote on July 31 failed overwhelmingly, with 672 opposed compared to 295 in favor, thereby necessitating a new budget to close the fiscal gap. 

In order to balance the budget, the Finance Committee is recommending using $50,000 from the assessors overlay account and $235,000 from “free cash,” the remaining, unrestricted portion of a town’s budget.

Cuts include $5,000 from town counsel; $4,365 from Orange Armory maintenance; $5,885 from the Police Department; $239 from the Building Department; $10,000 from regional animal control; $50,608 from the Orange Elementary School District; $7,560 from highway expenses; $6,526 from sanitation; $4,400 from the airport; and $100 from the Agricultural Commission. 

The largest reduction, $84,765, is to the town’s snow and ice removal funds.

“We are predicting a very hard winter, so we need to preserve the rest of our free cash to cover that,” Voelker said.

A concern among members of the Finance Committee — although doing so seems necessary, given the circumstances — is reducing the town’s free cash by $235,000. Last month, the Finance Committee reported Orange has $692,739 in free cash. According to Finance Committee Chair Keith LaRiviere, much of that goes toward snow and ice removal, which the town is legally bound to provide as a service — LaRiviere estimated $150,000 to $170,000 will be taken from free cash for that purpose.

With another $235,000 used to balance the budget, the concern is that free cash will be seriously depleted. Orange should not continue to rely on free cash, LaRiviere said, which is never guaranteed and fluctuates.

Wednesday, that concern was reiterated. 

“It’s going to come back and bite us because next year we’re going to have no cushion to work with, especially if we have bad snow and ice,” said Selectboard Vice Chair Jane Peirce. “My fingers are crossed that it doesn’t lead to disaster.”

“This is a Band-Aid. This is not a solution… but it is the only solution we can present to you at the moment,” Voelker said. 

Selectboard Chair Ryan Mailloux finished the meeting by calling for a motion to accept the new budget — he admitted that he does “not want to accept it,” but there is no choice. 

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




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