The Finance Committee and Selectmen discuss the need for a new police cruiser with Police Chief Michael Williams. Voters will be asked to dip into free cash to fund the vehicle.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Voters will will be asked to approve a town budget of $1,368,861 and a total school budget of $2,611,579 after the Finance Committee and Selectmen finalized the annual warrant on Thursday night.
Also on the warrant are several spending articles that will reduce the free cash account by more than half. Should all the articles pass as presented, the tax rate is expected to rise about 68 cents, or $12.21 per $1,000 evaluation. The town will be only $38,000 below its levy limit.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Mary Beverly said the increases are being driven by veterans services, health insurance and new debt, including the new $150,000 truck approved at last town meeting. There was talk of using more free cash toward lowering the tax rate, but the joint committee members agreed on using $50,000 because of the other spending needs.
The budget finalization had been delayed as the town waited for its free cash to be certified by the state; a last-minute influx of revenue in the House draft budget also saved officials from making more significant cuts.
"The School Committe will support it," said Superintendent Jonathan Lev. He added later that the cuts were a disappointment. "The hard thing is you won't be able to do the things you want to do ... to help the kids."
This year, the Police Department is asking for an amount not to exceed $42,000 for a new cruiser to be paid out of free cash. Town officials had asked voters last year to use some of the stabilization funds set aside for the school toward new three new accounts to pay for a cruiser, highway truck and well for the Senior Center. Town meeting scotched the request and only the town truck moved forward as a borrowing item.
The tax bill on an average home in Clarksburg, valued at $170,597 in 2011, will go up about $116 if the budgets pass.
Police Chief Michael Williams said the two current vehicles are on their last legs. The 6-year-old model has a 100,000 miles and the 12-year-old more than 135,000. He is looking at a couple of different 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Voters will also be asked to transfer up to $53,378 for the town's share of the costs for the damage incurred during Tropical Storm Irene. Williams, who is interim emergency management director, has been in contact with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials over the final numbers. Some $142,000 in costs has been submitted and the government has paid out $89,000 so far.
Williams anticipated that if federal and state covered everything submitted, the town's share would drop to $35,625. Selectmen Chairman Carl McKinney noted that the Berkshire delegation was trying to get the state to pick up the balance of the costs.
Also coming out of free cash will be $13,000 to cover the overextended veterans service account for fiscal 2012 and $15,350 for the repair or replacement of cooling system equipment at the public library.
The town currently has $310,000 in its free cash account.
"I would go to ask for $70,000 [toward the tax rate] but after all this we can't," said Beverly. "At $70,000, the tax rate would go up 52 cents ... but we only have $136,000 left.
"I'm way uncomfortable with that. Our excess levy capacity will only be $38,000. That's tight. Very tight."
McKinney agreed: "You got to do what you got to do."
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