Berkshire Briefs: Mt. Greylock Budget, Zebra Mussels, Al Jazeera, Clarksburg

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Mount Greylock Regional Voting School Budget

Staff Reports
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee will hold a public hearing and vote on its 2011 budget on Tuesday night, April 6, at 6:30 at the school.

The strapped school district has pared some $286,000 from the budget, or about half the expected 6 percent increase over this year, to come in at $10.2 million. The committee has presented the budget twice to the Finance Committee and once to the Lanesborough Finance Committee.

Rising costs and decreases in state aid and student population forced the school district to consider nearly $600,000 in cuts for the coming year. Another 4 percent decrease in state Chapter 70 aid may have to be absorbed as well.

The district is expecting, at best, half the regional state transportation aid it received last year; some 40 percent of the estimated increase was for special education. The school also saw a drop in tuition as Hancock and New Ashford students graduated or left.

With the latest round of cuts, the assessment will increase $202,000 for Williamstown and $249,000 for Lanesborough over this year. The total assessments are $2.5 million for Lanesborough and $4.6 million for Williamstown, based on enrollment.

The administration prioritized potential cuts into three, and then four, tiers. The so-called "Tier 0" includes courses that would likely be canceled anyway because of low or no enrollment, some custodial work, professional development, computer hardware, partial positions and a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion of $50,000 for capital (roof) repairs. Added in was the top three items in Tier 1, including $31,000 for senior project, to come up with the cuts.

State Offering Recommendation on Zebra Mussels

Berkshire News Network
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Zebra mussels, which threatened Berkshire Lakes last year, will be the subject of a public meeting on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 at Crosby School.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will discuss reducing the risk of zebra mussel infestations. The recommendations were developed by the office's Zebra Mussel Task Force after zebra mussels were found in Laurel Lake, Laurel Brook and the Housatonic River. The task force includes representatives from environmental police, sportsmen and fishing associations and lakes and ponds associations. A fresh-water wetlands scientist will also be on hand.

Al Jazeera Joins WilliNet Lineup

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Al Jazeera English News Bulletin will be available on WilliNet, the town's community access station.

The 24-hour news and current affairs channel is the first global English language news channel to be headquartered in the Middle East and is headquartered in Doha, Qatar. The news bulletin is produced out of Washington, D.C..

The half-hour global news report begins its weekday, 9 p.m. regular schedule on Channel 17 on Monday, April 5.

The bulletin's broadcast is being sponsored by Williamstown resident Scott Walker.

"I am pleased to sponsor Al Jazeera," he said. "We're a connected world and desperately in need of mutual understanding, and Al Jazeera's reasoned, objective, and from-another-place perspective is vitally important to every citizen."

Clarksburg Wants State to Fix Road Washout

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The state is expected to inform the town in the next three months what it plans to do about a washed-out section of Route 8

Emergency repairs were approved by the Conservation Commission late last month when heavy rains undercut a section of the state highway along the Hoosic River.

"This is the second time this has happened in three years," Town Administrator Michael Canales told the Selectmen at their March 24th meeting. "[The] requirement of the emergency waiver is that in three months, we hear back as far as what will be done for permanent repairs."

Selectman Carl McKinney said it could be an expensive project because the state may have to change the pitch of the road. "They've paved so much there's not much curb left ... It's only so long before it washes away again."

"They need to permanently fix it," said Chairwoman Debra LeFave. "Fix it, state of Massachusetts."

In other business:

The Selectmen, acting as the cemetery commissioners, issued a new deed to Sterling Battis for six graves in Lot 14 to correct a clerical error in 1970 that placed the graves in a lot purchased by another person in the 1950s. No one has been buried in the Battis lots.

Revoked a used-car license from Ken Larabee Jr. doing business as Ken's Auto Sales. Larabee failed to meet the bonding requirements of the state and failed to respond to a letter from the town on the matter dated March 3.

• A rabies and licensing clinic has been set for Wednesday, April 7, from 5 to 7 at the police garage. Cost is $13 for the rabies shot and $5 for a license, or $12 for unneutered dogs.
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Pittsfield Continues Tax Classification Hearing Over Free Cash

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Linda Tyer says she wants to focus on building reserves. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday continued the tax classification hearing after clashing with the mayor over how much free cash should be used to offset the tax rate.
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer were at a stalemate with the majority of the council unsatisfied with Tyer's $750,000 compromise.
"We are taking this out of the pockets of our taxpayers and putting it into the city coffers," Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said. "I know that's how it works but at this moment we can afford to give some of that savings back."
The original proposal was a residential tax rate of $19.99 per $1,000 valuation and a commercial rate of $39.96 per $1,000 valuation, which holds the residential rate to a 57 cent increase and the commercial rate to a 2 cent increase.
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