Chairwoman Jane Allen announced Monday she would not run for a fifth term on the board.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Selectmen on Monday night got its first look at the town's proposed fiscal 2015 budget, and the town got its first indication of a major change in the panel's five-person makeup.
Chairwoman Jane Allen opened the meeting by announcing that she would not seek a fifth three-year term on the board at May's town election.
"I'd love to say that I need to stay on to work on some of these big projects like the FEMA grant and the Highland Woods project," Allen said after the meeting. "But I sincerely meant what I said during the meeting. There are other people in town who are as deeply committed as I am."
Allen cited her service on other boards that have mandated term limits and indicated that she believes it is time to get some new blood on the Selectmen.
She named the Spruces Roof Group, a "super committee" of town board and committee heads that she chaired, as one of the highlights of her service as a selectman.
"A group I truly loved was the Long-term Coordinating Committee, later called the Spruces Roof Group," she said. "I love that idea of getting the chairs of various committees together to get us out of our 'silos' to address an issue that needed to be addressed.
"I hope it can be a model in the future if there is an issue like that."
The main order of business on Monday night was Town Manager Peter Fohlin's presentation of the broad strokes of the FY15 budget plan. The town's Finance Committee, which met jointly with the Select Board on Monday, will begin picking through the details of the budget at its Thursday meeting.
Fohlin projected a 2.5 percent increase in revenue from local real estate taxes to fund an equivalent rise in town expenditures.
Typical of his conservative style of management, Fohlin did not factor any increase in state aid into the equation.
"The governor has proposed a little bit more than what we received this year but not enough to count on, and we still have the Legislature to do its work," Fohlin said. "[Speaker of the House Robert] DeLeo has already publicly proclaimed he's going to give more local aid than the governor, but sometimes that doesn't work out either."
Most of the increase in proposed expenditures comes from increases in compensation to town employees. That includes an approximate 2 percent rise in wages and a 7.8 percent hike in health insurance costs to the town following two straight years with no increase in health insurance costs. Fohlin indicated the wage increase is still an unknown because the town is conducting collective bargaining agreement negotiations with its police and public works employees.
The budget center with the largest proposed percentage increase over this year is Inspection Services, where Town Planner Andrew Groff will be taking over as department head as part of a transition plan for the retirement of Director of Inspection Services Michael Card, who plans to leave in a year, Fohlin said.
"We're going to move Andrew into the head position, give Mike an opportunity to mentor him and give Andrew the opportunity to grow," Fohlin said.
The Inspection Services portion of the budget has a proposed increase of 8.1 percent, or $35,175.
The largest absolute increase in any one sector of the budget is schools — including Williamstown Elementary, Mount Greylock Regional and McCann Technical — which are expected to rise 2.5 percent, or $253,659.
Fohlin is proposing several capital projects for fiscal 2015, including a $306,000 underground water and sewer project on Gale Road, a $125,000 sidewalk and parking lot project at the Milne Public Library and $43,000 for engineering work to address erosion issues on North Hoosac Road.
Fohlin said the town overall is in a strong financial position, with a free cash balance of $518,894, a stabilization fund of $829,465 and an unused levy capacity of $920,538.
"That is to say we could be taxing Williamstown taxpayers an additional $1 million per year, which we are not," Fohlin said.
He said there are three reasons driving his long-term efforts to build up the free cash, stabilization and unused levy capacity lines on the budget.
"No. 1, if you've lived any time at all, you know bad times are coming," he said. "These are like savings accounts for the town. No. 2, four or five years ago, it became clear we needed to invest in a new police station and a new high school. I wanted to prepare the town to deal with those eventualities.
"No. 3, I wanted you all to live well during my retirement."
In other business on Monday, the Selectmen appointed Robert B. Hatton Jr. to fill an unexpired term on the Conservation Commission. Hatton previously served on that body from 1964 to 1979.
The board also approved the permit application to hold the 12th annual Humane Race to benefit the Berkshire Humane Society on Saturday, May 3.