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Clarksburg Voters to See Reduced Budget at Town Meeting

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Voters at town meeting on Wednesday will see a revised budget for fiscal 2021 that would reduce it overall by about $50,000 and raise the estimated tax rate by a much lower figure.
That's if the voters approve both the budget and the purchase of a new truck for no more than $250,000.
Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher had been against considering the truck and adding $50,000-plus in debt annually for the next five years.
However, after consultations with Northern Berkshire School Union Business Administrator Jennifer Macksey, he believes that the purchase is now within reach.
"So, we're able to purchase a truck," he said at the remote meeting held Tuesday so as not to conflict with town meeting. "And we're going to be able to reduce the tax rate — not a big decrease — but a 3 cent increase decrease instead of a 40 cent increase."
Town officials had estimated that the debt on the truck could cost the taxpayers about 40 cents per $1,000 valuation. That had prompted Boucher's opposition to the vehicle.
The new truck and its wing plow would replace a 2002 dump truck that's been frequently in the shop racking up costly repairs.
"I've been doing this a long time. Twenty years this year. But I've always fought for the taxpayer and their well-being, especially this year with COVID-19," he said. "I just didn't think it was a good time to go to the people at Clarksburg and ask for an increase, knowing we needed the truck, but thank God things always tend to work out."
The debt service line would be reduced by $53,125. Since the town would only pay interest in fiscal 2021, the net result would decrease the new debt service down to $290,046.
When the truck payments begin in 2022, the borrowing for the reconstruction of Horrigan Road at $60,000 a year will have fallen off. The town will also be paying off the library, if town meeting approves, meaning that smaller debt will also be gone.
There will be an increase in the Finance line of $2,232, raising the total to $118,116 for auditor costs. 
"The total requested budget put forward at town meeting will be $4,565,710," Boucher said. "That's inclusive of the town operating budget and the school."
Town meeting is set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the Senior Center. Voters are asked to bring their own chairs and umbrellas, in case. 
This outside town meeting is being held because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is limiting the number of people who can safely congregate indoors. 
One thing missing that town officials will need is a moderator. No one stood for moderator in the last two elections and the write-in winner in last week's election has declined the post. Boucher said he was the second write-in but is not able by law to be both moderator and selectman. 
Ray Moulthrop has stepped in at the last special town meeting but it was unclear if he would be available on Wednesday. 
Select Board member Danielle Luchi asked if it could wait until town meeting. Boucher agreed and the matter was tabled to the town meeting when someone will be appointed to moderate the meeting.
The town is also seeking to fill three other empty posts: a one-year term on the Hoosac Water Quality District and two alternates seats on the Conservation Commission of one and two years. 
Correction: iBerkshires reported the anticipated change in the tax rate incorrectly as an increase rather than a decrease.

Tags: town meeting 2020,   

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Clarksburg School Preparing for Reopening Scenarios

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

The new security doors can be seen in the school lobby. The doors are one of several updates at the school, including a public address system and an accessible bathroom. 
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Principal Tara Barnes is working on a "nice puzzle challenge" in figuring how students will be situated within the elementary school come fall to comply with public health guidelines for the pandemic.
The state guidelines, so far, are requiring social distancing as well as masking for students in Grades 2 and up. Schools will also require a separated space for children who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
"I feel from most of our classrooms, about 15 students is the max of what we're able to get in there," she told the School Committee on Thursday. Further guidance from the state in regard to desks and dividers could mean a few more, but, she said, "I don't want at any point to compromise the safety of students or staff when I'm looking at these spaces."
Barnes said she's reviewing the use of "overflow" spaces such as the gym and rethinking uses of non-classroom areas and how that might affect special education teaching and splitting up classes to keep the numbers down. 
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