Rowe residents to consider $5.79M budget, tennis court rehab at Town Meeting

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-05-2023 11:19 AM

ROWE — With several articles not unanimously recommended by the Finance Committee and Selectboard, including the public schools budget and the expansion of a project to rebuild tennis courts, residents will have to decide for themselves what projects will pass on Monday.

Annual Town Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Rowe Elementary School, and will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a short Special Town Meeting. Between both warrants, there are 31 articles.

Part of the roughly $5.79 million fiscal year 2024 budget residents will vote on is the nearly $1.77 million education budget that includes nearly $1.17 million for the elementary school — a figure that is 1.6% less than the current year’s budget, despite rising costs across the board. The education budget is $75,000 less than the School Committee requested from the Finance Committee.

“The Rowe Elementary School has worked in good faith to meet the requested budgeting level presented by the Finance Committee, although expected expiration of grant funding next academic year will make further cuts extremely difficult without resulting in marked reductions in staffing or other programs,” Selectboard Chair Chuck Sokol wrote in an email. “Given the loss of future grant funding, I feel any similar cuts next year would be entirely inappropriate.”

A veteran teacher decided to retire and will not be replaced next school year. This retirement will result in the elimination of the preschool program for 3-year-olds. Two teaching assistant positions will also be cut.

In regards to Mohawk Trail Regional School District appropriations, the amount Rowe needs to pay has increased by 35% compared to the current year, which is attributed largely to an increase in enrolled students.

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On the Special Town Meeting warrant, there is one article that was not recommended by one member of the Finance Committee and was unanimously not recommended by the Selectboard: Article 4 seeks to expand a previously approved project rebuilding the tennis courts. If voters authorize using $45,000 from the Capital Stabilization Account, a second court will be rebuilt.

Last year, voters approved using $100,000 for the reconstruction of the tennis courts at Pelham Lake Park. The courts are severely cracked and so worn down that they are slippery and could be dangerous to use. Bids for the project came in higher than what was appropriated, however, so the project is coming back to Town Meeting.

Subsequently, it was identified that the scope of the project did not include the removal of the pavement associated with the second court. The Park Commission identified several sources of unused funds in other accounts — sums of $3,875 and $2,000 that are outlined in Articles 1 and 2, respectively — that could be transferred for the tennis court rehabilitation project.

Also at the meeting, residents will consider changing the position of executive secretary to town administrator, which is the most frequently used title for the role.

“This change in title is so that we can better reflect the scope of the job as it exists today, and to attract the proper kind of applicants should we need to fill the position in the future,” Sokol explained. “Making this job title change will not result in any material changes to the responsibilities of this position.”

The full warrants for both meetings can be found at bit.ly/3VAZVEo.

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com

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