Former Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco had initiated the joint public hearings held at the Visitors Center during his three-year tenure and greatly condensed the budget process. Department heads presented their budgets via PowerPoint and the public was encouraged to attend and ask questions.
The hiring of eight new firefighters through a safer grant is helping curb overtime.
For years the overtime budgets for both the Police Department and the Fire Department have been underfunded, leaving a deficit that needs to be made up at the close of the fiscal year every year. This year, however, the city won a federal grant to bring on eight new firefighters and with that, overtime had dropped dramatically.
The Finance Committee voted unanimously to support the plan of local school officials to expand the Mount Greylock Regional School District and the proposed purchase of a Simonds Road property for a new police station ó questions likely to be posed to the town at a special town meeting on Nov. 14.
The Finance Committee rejected the citizen's petition article to amend the ACRSD agreement and allow Cheshire to independently fund their elementary school.
"We usually donít vote on citizenís petitions and we just send them through but this one will have a major impact," Finance Committee member Jeffrey Lefebvre said. "I think we should give a sense of direction on what our feeling is."
The Finance Committee approved its version of the budget on Monday, but that board's decision to cut close to $50,000 from health insurance lines has the town manager concerned.
"I really am concerned about the amount of money being cut out of health insurance," Town Manager Paul Sieloff said. "It is an unnecessary risk."
The city has a fairly good idea what the increase in its fiscal 2018 budget will be: 1.12 percent, largely driven by health insurance increases, pensions, the school budget and two new positions.
But it doesn't yet know how much revenue will come in this year as it pursues some $2.6 million in liens, taxes and interest outstanding. The hope is to use some of those gains to offset taxes and prepare engineering for projects in anticipation of a debt drop-off in 2020.
The Finance Committee on Wednesday recommended passage of all the fiscal warrants for May's Annual Town Meeting, but not until after it revisited a few of the arguments that punctuated budget season at Town Hall.
The Finance Committee approved the entire $15.5 million budget but voted to not recommend the McCann assessment to the town that has increased 27 percent.
The Finance Committee had few concerns with the town side of the fiscal year 2018 budget Thursday but refused to recommend the McCann budget with a 10 to 1 vote, even though the selectmen approved it with a 3-1 vote.
School officials arrived empty-handed to Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting because Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee's spending plan for fiscal 2018 is up in the air.
The Finance Committee had penciled in the assessment for Adams based on a $19.2 million budget that should have been approved on Monday. Instead, the School Committee's three Cheshire representatives balked at a plan that would mean the closure of Cheshire Elementary School.
An appreciative Finance Committee on Wednesday heard an explanation of Williamstown Elementary School's proposed $6.8 million fiscal 2018 budget.
The K-6 school has a budget that calls for a 2.39 percent spending increase over this year but which calls for a 3.64 percent increase in funding from town property taxes.
The town's ambulance service is in critical condition, officials told the Finance Committee on Wednesday.
And if Village Ambulance does not receive town support, it likely will go out of business in the next six months, according to the president of its board of directors.
The Finance Committee on Monday grilled administration officials on the proposed purchase of a defunct anodizing plant for use as a public services facility.
After two hours of questioning by committee and audience members, the three-person committee voted to recommend a purchase-and-sales agreement of $995,000 for the building at 59 Hodges Cross Road to the full City Council on Tuesday.
The Finance Committee on Monday voted 6-2 to recommend that the annual town meeting approve the amended elementary school budget passed last week by the School Committee.
After more than two hours of discussion that frequently veered off into conversations on pedagogy despite the best efforts of Chairman Michael Sussman, a majority of the panel decided not to second guess the conclusion of the administration and School Committee and instead endorse the request for an additional $58,424.
City officials are looking to plug an estimated $300,000 health insurance shortfall for fiscal 2017 with a one-time shot of free cash.
And it means putting "everything on the table" to find more cost savings in insurance premiums
for the following year.
"We were projecting a 7 percent increase in health insurance costs but it came in at 12.8 ... that shot our budget about $300,000 out of balance," Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Tuesday.
The city is looking to refinance $4.2 million in long-term debt incurred in 2008.
Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood received City Council approval to start the process of issuing refunding bonds for the debt. The will city will basically be paying off those callable bonds from 2008 with money borrowed at a lower interest rate. The bonds will still mature in 2028 but, because of the new interest rates, Kerwood estimates some $425,000 could be saved over the next decade.
The Finance Committee accepted the fiscal 2017 budget of $14,567,135 and approved reserve fund transfers last week, but demanded better communication from the administration.
The committee approved a reserve fund transfer request of $63,000 for repairs and state Department of Environmental Protection-mandated updates to the wastewater treatment plant last Thursday but felt blindsided by some of the costs.
The Finance Committee is recommending that the School Committee immediately start to tackle the principal on the debt being incurred for the Mount Greylock building project.
The Finance Committee unanimously urged the Mount Greylock School Committee to make payments on both interest and principle in 2017 instead of delaying by only paying interest. Finance Committee member Steven Wentworth estimates over the course of the bond, making principle payments immediate will ultimately save as much
The city expects to end the fiscal year without having to dip into reserves despite a bump in overtime costs for the police and fire departments.
Treasurer David Fierro Jr. informed the Finance Committee last week during a review of the final months of fiscal 2016 that police and fire salaries are over budget for this year at a combined $225,000 because of greater than anticipated injuries on duty and overtime.
Town officials agree that the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District must close a school ó and that it shouldn't be C.T. Plunkett Elementary.
That consensus came during last week's review of the school budget during the third of four nights of fiscal 2017 budgetary review by the Selectmen and Finance Committee. Wednesday's review focused on Adams-Cheshire and McCann Technichal School that together make 39 percent of the entire $14.5 million spending plan for 2017.
The Finance Committee on Wednesday recommended that the town look at increased taxes to pay for a jump in the Mount Greylock Regional School District's assessment and look to free cash to offset an overage in the elementary school's budget.
After several years of last-minute budget cuts and unhappy suprises, town officials are feeling optimistic about next year's budget.
"We are in a spot where we don't have to scramble and cut things," said Finance Committee Chairman Mark Denault on Monday. "I think it's probably the best budget we've seen at the beginning of budget season. ...
"I think we're in a good spot."
The Finance Committee is Okay with the proposed budgets for Police, Fire, and Highway Departments.
The committee reviewed the three budgets as it begins to pick through Town Manager Paul Sieloff's proposed $10.5 million budget.