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The Board of Selectmen begin review of the fiscal 2020 budget on Wednesday night.

Adams Selectmen See Budget

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen on Wednesday began a review of a draft budget of $15,847,248 for fiscal 2020 that represents a 1.27 percent increase over this year.

The proposed spending plan is $199,226 more than this year's budget of $15,648,022.

"Welcome to the 2020 budget: here we go," Town Accountant Mary Beverly said at the workshop meeting. "This was presented twice to the budget subcommittee and they have made some adjustments so it has been reviewed."

Chairman John Duval said the Selectmen asked that the budget reflect a tax rate increase of 60 cents or less.

Beverly said this was accomplished and that the estimated residential tax rate for fiscal 2020 will be $21.93 per $1,000 assessed value. This number uses the current residential commercial split of 15 percent.

She added that out of the town's $1,140,681 in free cash $250,000 will be used to offset the tax rate as it was last year. She said they plan to use about half of the free cash in the total budget.

Duval noted that this is only the estimated rate and it most likely will change by the time the selectmen set the tax rate.

"This tax rate is only half the story … that can go down in October or that can go up," he said. "This can change. If we have more growth, this number is going down."

Beverly went through a brief overview of the budget and broke it down into three major pieces: personnel services ($6,270,892 or a 3.44 percent increase), operational ($2.2 million or a 3.8 percent increase), and Capitol ($175,000 from taxes and $281,850 from free cash).

The selectmen split their review up and Wednesday they looked at the Council on Aging, Wastewater Treatment, and Public Buildings and Property Maintenance.

The Department of Public Works budget was the largest to be reviewed but overall the selectmen had few comments.

The DPW administration personal budget of $112,708 is down 31.61 percent because the town is still without a director and the Highway personnel budget of $1,423,628 is up 5.74 percent, reflecting a new contract with the union.

The Highway's operating budget of $76,450 is level funded and the DPW garage equipment maintenance budget of $185,500 slightly increased 1.09 percent

Beverly moved on to the garage capital budget of $109,000 which includes a new one-ton dump truck, a refitting of a sewer jetter truck, and the sandblasting and repainting of two trucks. This is a 2.83 percent increase.

DPW Superintendent Tim Cota said the new truck would include a plow and would replace one of the town's 2008 trucks pushing $100,000.

He said this truck could be cycled out to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which requested a new truck earlier in the meeting. He added that they are always will to share with the department.

Town Administrator Jay Green, who started Monday, said he plans to look for more efficiency and redundancies in town operations.

"We are always short staffed and I am coming up to speed," he said. "We are going to make it work and make it effective for the taxpayers. It is just a matter for me of taking a look."

Cota did request that the town bring on an addition skilled laborer position to bring their ranks up to 13 to help with extra duties the shrinking department has to take on.

"It would just be a huge thing for us because we just don't have the bodies," he said. "It is not like our work is shrinking. The road systems are still the same size, infrastructure is the same, and now we have to take on the Glen and the bike path. We have to do more with less guys."

Selectwoman Christine Hoyt added that the budget was already tight but asked the department to take another look at its budget to see if anything more could be cut, such as seasonal help.

Much of the rest of the budget items included in this section was level funded or slightly altered except for the Cemetery Parks and Grounds capital budget of $98,850, which is a 606.07 percent increase.

This bulk of this increase comes from an $85,000 allocation for a matching grant to revamp the town common for the incoming Susan B. Anthony statue.

Beverly said the $85,000 will come from free cash and another $20,000 will be used from the economic development fund for this $105,000 matching grant.

Selectman Joseph Nowak did ask that the town look at alternatives to salt for snow and ice control but also said he felt many of the plow drivers "milk" overtime.

"I see you guys you are all done with a route and instead of going down you go up one more time," he said. "And you guys are going too fast … it's nothing against you but I am speaking on behalf of the town."

This created a stir among some of the DPW workers in the audience and Cota said he makes most of the overtime decisions and noted it is not as easy as just making one swipe though.

"I will talk to everyone here but I can assure you we do not want to be out there 10, 12, 14 hours," he said. "I want to go home and go to bed but it's the job. If these roads aren't clear they just have to go back out and redo them."

Nowak began squabbles with some in the audience and said he felt such big operations in town need to be looked at.

Nowak was invited for a ride along.

The selectmen also looked at the Waste Water Treatment plant budget that has an operational plan of $304,371, which is a 2.65 percent increase.

Capital expenses were actually down 49.38 percent for a budget of $40,500.

Director Bob Rumbolt did ask for a few thousand dollars extra in his labor and parts line items to bring funding levels up to what is actually spent. He also requested a new vehicle.

He did add that there will be major upgrades needed at the plant in the future.

Earlier in the meeting, the selectmen looked at the Council on Aging personnel budget of $217,758 that actually decreased .65 percent.

The operational budget was flat at $15,560. The Visitors Center operational budget itself was also flat at $15,850

The last budget the selectmen looked at was public buildings which they moved through quite quickly. The budgets either were level funded or slightly increased or decreased.

The Memorial Building was the only outlier and the $40,300 budget increased 17.49 percent. Beverly said this is mostly from increased natural gas usage with more use in the building that often do not turn down the heat when they are done.

The selectmen noted they have to address this issue.

The board will hold three more budget workshops before approving a budget.


Tags: adams_budget,   fiscal 2020,   

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Suffrage Centennial Committee Kicks Off Yearlong Celebration

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Cassandra Peltier as Alva Belmont Vanderbilt, a prominent figure in the suffrage movement.
ADAMS, Mass. — About 75 people filled The Manor on Saturday afternoon for the kickoff event of a yearlong celebration of Susan B. Anthony and the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
 
The event at St. John Paul II Parish's Italianate mansion was organized by the Adams Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee. The committee serves as an advisory committee to the Board of Selectmen. 
 
Anthony was born in Adams and was a social reformer best known for spearheading the women's suffrage movement. She was also involved in the anti-slavery movement, collecting signatures for petitions as a teen, the temperance (prohibition of alcohol) movement, and women's financial rights.
 
Retired school teacher Mary Whitman, committee member and host for the day, shared why Anthony's work was so important. 
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