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Adams Selectmen, Finance Committee Hold First Budget Hearing

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. —  The Selectmen and Finance Committee began review of the fiscal 2022 budget with a joint meeting on Tuesday.
"There are certain sections of the budget that will be discussed, and we will dig down in the weeds of those departments," Town Administrator Jay Green said. "But tonight we are going through the budget overview so you all will have a sense of what the economics look like for fiscal 22."
The meeting was held in the Memorial Building's gymnasium. Everyone was spread out 3 feet from each other and masks were required.
Green presented the $16.4 million fiscal 2022 budget and took some time to discuss the levy limit and the estimated tax rate. He said Adams will be left with about a $615,982 levy buffer with an estimated tax rate of $22.92 per $1,000 valuation.
He reignited a conversation held over past budget cycles about Adams reaching its levy limit and its relationship to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
"At some point, we will hit that levy ceiling," Green said. "Once we hit that we will be forced into an override or find other funding sources."
The sewer user fee is included in the town's tax rate. Green said Adams is one of the few communities in the commonwealth that operate this way. 
"When people ask 'why is the tax rate so high?' there is a variety of reasons, but one of the first is we are paying for that with the tax rate," Green said. "At some point, we have to have the conversation about that and how we fund that operation and what that means to adjust the tax rate properly."
He said the town would likely need to create an enterprise fund that could only be spent on sewer costs and that this something the state would look favorably on.
The bulk of the evening was spent on the education budgets.
First up was the McCann Technical School budget of $10.3 million of which Adams will be assessed $1,055,418, based on enrollment.
"I always say it and will say it again it is pretty much a vanilla budget," Northern Berkshire vocational district Superintendent James Brosnan said. "You will notice in these line items have marginal changes."
Both bodies also saw the Hoosac Valley Regional School District budget of $20.2 million budget of which Adams will be assessed  $5,470,320, within the levy limit.
"I am going to coin Jim's phrase and say a lot of this is vanilla," Hoosac Superintendent Aaron Dean said.
Selectman John Duval was concerned about the district's use of Excess and Deficiency Funds, or free cash, to offset costs. He said the district has been doing this for years.
Dean said this is also a concern of his and he hopes to be able to work with the towns to lessen this use.
"I appreciate that statement, and this is something that we are going to have to work together on," he said.


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Adams Aiming for Summer Reopening of Public Buildings

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The town is hoping to fully reopen by July, depending on public health data.
Town Administrator Jay Green told the Select Board on Wednesday that although he does not foresee completely opening until the summer, he thought it was time to start planning.
Green said currently the town is in the yellow level of the state's COVID-19 categories and that he would not be comfortable opening until the town is consistently in the green or, even better, gray. The levels run from red for high transmission and positive cases to gray at the lowest level.
"As long as we are in the red or yellow, that indicates the presence of COVID-19 at a level that could promote community spread," Green said. "As you can see there are a lot of communities opening up, but we are a little behind. Is it conservative? Yes but I think we are almost there."
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