Clarksburg Officials Happy With School Budget IncreaseBy Tammy Daniels
10:45PM / Wednesday, March 14, 2012
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are expecting the operating budget to break $1 million again this year.
The Finance Committee and Selectmen were pleased with school budget. They will meet March 28 to continue work on the town budget.
The town is facing increases in insurance, fuel and veterans services.
"We want to keep the tax rate down as much as possible while still meeting the needs of the community," said Selectmen Chairman Carl McKinney at a joint meeting of the Selectmen and Finance Committee on Wednesday night to begin the budget process.
This year's budget is $1.065 million; fiscal 2011, a belt-tightening $967,570.
The school budget, often a flashpoint, was given a pass if the draft provided to the town at about $2.4 million doesn't change.
The budget is up by 1.9 percent, or $45,000, from this year.
"I'm so pleasantly surprised," said Finance Chairwoman Mary Beverly as the group went through the figures, adding, "If the number holds."
The school district had been in danger of failing to meet net school spending levels this year; for next year, the balance will be $95,000 over the minimum spending of $2,319,000. This year's per-pupil spending is $8,828; next year's will be $9,307.
"They have to spend more on foundation level every year," said Beverly. "If they could stick to this number, I wouldn't make them come in and speak to us."
The other members agreed that if the budget doesn't change, they would recommend it as is and not require school officials to meet with them. Finance member Linda Ethier said committee members should still review the budget in case there were questions.
On the town side, veterans services were being budgeted at $60,000 but McKinney suggested that $80,000 would be more appropriate to ensure enough funds. Towns and cities across the region have been hit with higher veterans costs over the last several years as troops return home from often multiple tours.
McKinney said the town would take a bigger hit this year because the state's 75 reimbursement wouldn't kick in until next fiscal year. Beverly said she would speak with the veterans agent, shared by most of the North Berkshire towns, to get his recommendation.
"Our troops fought for us and this is the cost of war," said McKinney. "It's our responsibility."
Health insurance costs are up 8.3 percent for a total of $220,500. Beverly, town account for Adams, suggested looking at the Berkshire Health Group, saying the rates were much better for that town.
Not surprisingly, fuel costs are also up several thousand dollars in both the highway and police budget. Beverly recommended the town look into state program Adams is using that will lower gasoline costs 40 cents or more at certain stations.
Town workers can expect a 2 percent raise this year, although the highway salary line item will still be lower because of the number of new employees at lower steps.
Also being recommended for 2 percent raises are the town clerk and the new tax collector/treasurer position. That post will be created after the current elected treasurer's term runs out in May. The current appointed tax collector had asked for a 31 percent pay increase for the new 30-hour post, but McKinney said it wouldn't fly at town meeting.
The committees decided to recommend a 2 percent raise and allow whoever takes the job to keep the demand fees for delinquent excise taxes.
Ethier asked when the job would be posted. McKinney and Selectwoman Lily Kuzia said the board would appoint someone "from inside."
The next budget meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28, following the Selectmen's meeting.
Editor's note: A number of changes were recommended on the original budget draft during the meeting. We will get the updated figures once the changes are made.