ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen's budget subcommittee saw an early draft of the proposed $16.5 million fiscal 2022 budget.
After meeting with the Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee on Wednesday to discuss the education budget, the Selectmen then took a look at the town's own proposed $16,522,933 million budget.
"At this point, we feel as though we have a really good snapshot of what this budget is going to look like," Town Administrator Jay Green said.
Green said the personnel services budget has increased 2.3 percent to $6,544,394. He said this accounts for the 17 paid elected employees, 21 appointed nonunion employees, and the 45 union and seasonal employees.
He said the increase accounts for step and cost-of-living wage increases. It is in line was past year increases.
This cycle's operational budget is $2,322,484. This is actually a decrease of 0.24 percent. Last year this budget went up 3.79 percent.
Green said the town has $839,000 in certified free cash. The town will only use $419,000 of this.
"As a policy, we don't use all of it in one year," Green said. "We will let some of it sit."
Some $250,000 will be used to offset the tax rate. This is a similar amount used in past years.
As for capital expenditures, Green said the town plans to purchase a new police cruiser for $55,000. He said the plan is to spend $10,000 on a new body for the bucket truck and another $10,000 on library maintenance.
Another $3,000 will be allocated for public building maintenance and $5,000 to purchase new equipment for the Parks and Cemetery Department.
"Our capital program is is shallower than past years but not unexpected with the slowed-down economy," Green said
Some $83,050 will be used to settle an outstanding court judgment. This perked the ears of Selectman John Duval who asked for a little more information.
Green said the worker's comp case has been open for 25 years and goes back to the 1970s.
"Town counsel has taken it as far up the legal chain as possible," Green said. "We have had good results and bad results and when you have bad results you just have to pay it."
With this use of free cash, Green said stabilization will grow from $463,076 to $634,761.
"That number is getting healthy," he said. "We don't want to use that at all in this draft budget in front of you."
Getting further into the budget, Green said the town conservatively estimated receipts at $58,000 and estimate new growth to be around $25,000.
He said the town's levy limit base is $12,406,764. The town plans to levy through taxes $11,858,096. This leaves an excess levy capacity of $548,000.
"That's been consistent with what the board has suggested," Green said. "We are not a tax to the max community, but this is a healthy number to leave on the table."
Using the same tax shift, Green estimated a tax rate of $23.05 per $1,000 valuation. He said this can change depending on the state budget, receipts, and additional relief funding.
Green said there are some capital purchases and projects the budget does not address. He said they will continue to seek out grants and other sources of funding to supplement the budget.
Otherwise, he said it was a solid budget.
"Although we had to have a hard conservation with the school district and we are not seeing the growth we wanted to see within the departments, we are still providing what our constituents look for," Green said. "That is not in jeopardy in any form."
The conversation then moved to salaries and both Duval and Finance Committee Chairman Tim Burdick were concerned about certain elected positions and their salaries that continue to increase year after year no matter who is elected.
"It is ridiculous," Burdick said. "We take someone with two or three years experience and they are getting the same salary as someone who has been here 30 years."
Moreover, there was a concern that completely unqualified people could fill these positions simply by winning an election.
Green agreed and said other communities have moved away from this election model.
"I think the solution at the heart of this is that it is antiquated for a municipality to elect an accessor or treasurer/collector," Green said.
He said people sometimes inquire about similar open elected positions but sometimes have to be turned away because they do not live in town or do not want to run a campaign.
Green said town meeting can kick off the process by approving a warrant article asking the town to move forward with a change that eventually will need to be approved by the state.
The Selectmen plan to hold in personal joint meetings with the Finance Committee spread out perhaps at the Memorial Building. This would happen in April.
By May, both bodies would make their final approvals and in late June the town would hold town meeting.
This is all dependent on public health data and with an anticipated spike in COVID-19 cases, Chairwoman Christine Hoyt said both committees would have to be flexible.
The town does plan to hold town meeting outdoors at Bowe Field.
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