Gill’s Annual Town Meeting passes $3.9M budget 

  • Voters approved all 14 articles on the warrant at Town Meeting in Gill on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Fortunately the weather was mild enough Saturday for voters attending the Annual Town Meeting in Gill. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • The pandemic required safety precautions and adjustments as voters gathere for the Annual Town Meeting in Gill on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2020 3:01:38 PM

GILL — Voters approved all 14 articles on the warrant at Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, including a $3.9 million total gross budget, which includes a $1.8 million assessment for the Gill-Montague Regional School District.

The roughly hour-long meeting took place at 1:30 p.m., outside the Riverside building at 54 French King Highway. Social distancing and masks were required of all in attendance.

Nearly all articles, including the omnibus budget presented in Article 6, were approved with little to no discussion Saturday morning. Only one question was raised by a voter before a review of the omnibus budget began.

“I’m impressed reading these columns of the increases and decreases this year, that there’s substantial decreases this year when everything was level-funded in the past,” said Sue Kramer. “I’m just curious how that happened and who’s responsible.”

Town Administrator Ray Purington said all of the reductions were either “modest amounts or … reliably safe” for each of the departments.

“Without even looking at the sky, I can tell there’s a storm coming,” Purington said. “We were fortunate that the state is level-funding for this year. I don’t think we’re going to have such good luck for next year. The financial cliff from COVID, I think, is going to start showing up for Fiscal Year ’22, so this was an attempt to start reining things in a little bit. We were also reining things back because we had several sizable increases we needed to offset, most notably the increase for the for education assessments and then also roughly $38,000 increase in trash collection, disposal and recycling processing.”

Only one article didn’t pass unanimously.

Article 8 asked voters to approve appropriations in the amount of $3,572 to increase the assessor’s clerk position from 20 hours per week to 30 hours per week. The motion presented on the warrant asked voters to pass over the article.

Members of the Board of Assessors, however, asked voters on Saturday to vote no on the motion to pass over, so a new motion could be made to vote on its substance. The article itself came at the request of the Board of Assessors.

Responding to a question on why the initial motion was to pass over the article, Selectboard member Randy Crochier said there wasn’t enough time to do the “due diligence” that would be required for him to support the article as written.

“Because of COVID and other reasons, we haven’t had a chance to bring it to a personnel committee, so there’s no recommendations anywhere,” Crochier said. “An increase in 20 to 30 hours may be the right number, or it might not be. I personally haven’t had a conversation with any of the assessors to determine how their number was come up with.”

Selectboard member Gregory Snedeker added that there was conflicting perceptions between towns over what the “proper hours” should be.

“I have sat in that office, so I actually don’t doubt that 30 hours is probably needed … but again, because there was so much controversy, and not enough time to vet it, I feel like we’re passing over — no necessarily to say it’s not worth it — … it’s just, we need more time.”

Tim Storrow, who sits on the Board of Assessors, said he respects the circumstances of COVID but the lack of preparation on the budget process was not an excuse to be “kicking the can down the road.”

“We understand that it does take deliberation and so forth, but I’ve been on the assessor’s for close to two years now,” Storrow said. “I’m not aware that Finance Committee has reached out to any board members in the last two years to understand what our budget issues or concerns were. … We would like to be able to present our situation, so the voters would understand at least what’s going on.”

Speaking on behalf of the Finance Committee, Tupper Brown noted that the current clerk plans to retire soon, and the amount of money asked for was to provide for hiring a new one at a lower hourly rate but for more hours.

After an initial voice vote on the motion to pass over the article, Town Moderator Isaac Bingham called for a hand vote. Ultimately, the motion passed by a majority vote, with 16 yes votes and 15 no votes.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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