The Finance Committee on Thursday night began its initial review of the town budget.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee on Thursday night took up its first review of the fiscal 2015 budget, voting to recommend line items including the Highway Department and maintaining the Vistors Center and Memorial Middle School building.
The Board of Selectmen reviewed the budget through last month. Now the budget must go through a series of meetings with the Finance Committee.
"I think if you look at the bottom line of this budget I think you can say we are in a healthier place than we have been in the past couple of years," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said.
This year’s budget is a total of $13,952,597, which is a 1.52 percent increase from this year's budget. Operational expenses for the town went up .35 percent and personnel expenses increased 2.67 percent, mostly due to a countywide 9.5 percent increase in health insurance from Berkshire Health Group.
"We are in good shape compared to other surrounding communities," said Selectmen Chairman John Duval.
During the process, some committee members showed concern toward the total amount of money being spent on maintaining the vacant middle school building. The town has taken over the building since the school is no longer there and has been attempting to lease out sections.
Butler explained that when the city first took over the building, it was using an old inefficient oil heating system that cost $13,965 to run a year. That was replaced with a more efficient natural gas system, which lowered the annual cost to $8,000.
"At this point the actual heating cost is $5,000 or $6,000 a year natural gaswise, at least for the interim time until we have a long-term plan for the building,” Butler said.
The town administrator said $50,000 in engineering funds were used last year in preparation of the roof replacement project, which is being matched with a $650,000 state grant. This project will be starting within the next few weeks
The operational costs for maintaining the building is $23,400 this year and was approved by the Finance Committee with an 8-3 vote.
The committee went over expansions to the Visitors Center with personnel budget of $55,192. This budget increased because a full-time tourism director was hired. Butler also discussed possibly keeping the Visitors Center open all year.
"It's a hub of activity, and I think the fact that it has given us a property that is protected from traffic and is in the center of our downtown is beneficial," he said. "I think it has really given us a place to do things like the farmers market and events like Thunderfest and Ramblefest.
While discussing the highway budget, the committee spoke about the potholes that have appeared throughout town. The state is providing $30 million for pothole repairs for municipalities throughout Massachusetts. Butler said the town will receive $44,000 out of that amount.
The interim DPW Superintendent David Nuvallie estimated Adams has close to $80,000 to $100,000 in potholes to repair.
The next meeting will take place Monday, April 14, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.