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The Finance Committee reviews the budget earlier this week with Selectwoman Carol Francesconi and Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV.

Cheshire Selectmen, Finance Committee Review FY 2020 Budget

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — After a final Finance Committee and Selectmen review of the budget, the $6.2 million spending plan is ready for town meeting.
The Finance Committee met with Selectwoman Carol Francesconi on Tuesday to go over the fiscal 2020 budget that is up 2.94 percent.
"I think the budget looks good," Finance Committee member John Trembley said. "You did a good job."
The Finance Committee had no real requests for deductions and, if anything, advocated for increases and more future planning.
Trembley asked about the Council on Aging budget of $46,803 that has increased $23,900 to accommodate a new position -- a program coordinator.  
"I am not measuring it, I am just saying we serve a certain amount of people at the Council on Aging," he said. "How do we get more?"
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV said he thought not enough seniors use the program, which was the impetus to add the position.
"That's the plan, and we hope that this position provides more access and will drive more people here," he said. "A lot of people just go to Adams to their COA ... in my opinion we aren't serving enough."
St. John said if town meeting approves the budget, the position will be posted in hopes of having someone hired for July 1.
The conversation then moved to infrastructure and Finance Committee Chairman Justin Kruszyna said he thought the town should really start looking at some substantial road repairs. He noted road maintenance has been level funded. 
"I know we are pushing the levy limit but I would like to see more money in the road repair fund," he said. "The longer we wait the more it will cost."
Francesconi said many of the road projects come with astronomical costs and that state Chapter 90 funds will not be enough to address projects such as Route 116.
St. John added that the town plans to apply again for Complete Streets funding to overhaul Depot Street and that this season's plan is to repair Maple Street. 
The Finance Committee then asked if the town is keeping an eye on the condition of public buildings.
St. John said the town does have a complete assessment of town buildings in the works for future planning. 
"We know what we have we just have to figure out the metrics and how to rate the buildings," he said. "We need to do that and fit it into a larger capital improvement plan."
Kruszyna also asked about the Transfer Station and noted a $17,000 increase because of recycling changes. He asked if this cost would be reflected in a bag rate increase. 
St. John said the increase will be dispersed throughout town but thought the Board of Health did have a bag fee increase planned. 
With the town planning to borrow to purchase a used grader, Trembley asked about current debt and St. John said in the next years the town has a lot of items coming off the books so the grader should be a wash.
"In the next few years, we have some debt that will be coming off and we can start to plan going forward," he said.
He said a highway truck borrowing expires in fiscal 2020 as well as one in 2022. A land acquisition is scheduled to expire in 2024, a fire truck in 2030, and the Fire Department rescue vehicle in 2023.
Tremblay said he was happy with the flat 2 percent increase across the budget and the decrease in free cash from $170,000 to $140,000 to lower the tax rate.
St. John said he plans to continue to decrease the amount of free cash used to lower the tax rate in years to come.
"I want to reduce our dependence on free cash and use it for capital expenditures or emergencies rather than just offsetting the tax rate," he said. "I want to build us up to a position where we won't need it." 
St. John said he would send the Finance Committee updated budgets but his preliminary calculations still show an increase in the tax rate of about 50 cents.
The town will hold budget and town meeting informational sessions May 23 and 30 at 7. The location of these meetings will be posted online.

Tags: cheshire_budget,   fiscal 2020,   

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Cheshire Tackling Budget Process, Phase II Reopening

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen elected a new chair Tuesday night as Michelle Francesconi was elevated to the seat for the first time. 
Francesconi was elected in 2019 when the board expanded from three seats to five. She will take over for Robert Ciskowski, who was roundly thanked by his fellow board members for his leadership over the past year.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV is preparing to work with a 1/12th budget scenario for the first part of fiscal 2021. Cheshire, like many other municipalities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has postponed its annual town meeting past the state's June 30 deadline, thus preventing them from finalizing a budget. 
State revenue and local aid numbers are unknown at this point but are expected to take a significant hit because of the pandemic. St. John and the board feel this is the most prudent course of action.
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