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Williamstown Fire District Officials Respond to Budget Questions

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The committee that governs the town's fire district Wednesday finalized the fiscal year 2022 budget request it will send to voters later this month.
 
And the chair of the Prudential Committee used the opportunity to put that budget request into context.
 
"I understand the increase we're asking for is 10.6 percent," Richard Reynolds said. "That sounds like a large number. We're all aware this money is the taxpayers' money. We like to be very thoughtful about it.
 
"The town is not seeing a tax increase. And while ours is 10.6 percent, it's 6 cents for every $1,000 [of assessed property value]. So if you have a half-million dollar home in town, your tax increase for next year — not per quarter, but for the whole year — is $30. I understand that's your money, but we are trying to transform the department on a number of fronts."
 
Reynolds' committee talked about the district's FY22 fiscal priorities in detail at its last two monthly meetings. On Wednesday, it held a brief special meeting to finalize the language that will go into the warrant for the annual district meeting on May 25, where voters will be asked to vote up or down on the spending plan.
 
A large part of the increase of the current fiscal year comes from costs associated with the Prudential Committee's efforts to build a new fire station to replace the cramped, antiquated facility on Water Street.
 
Another thing impacting the budget: a decision to put more money into the district's stabilization account. Historically, the district has funded the acquisition of new trucks from stabilization, and the cost of fire apparatus continues to rise. The committee members have in recent years bumped up the amount the district raises and appropriates from taxation to fund the stabilization account.
 
Reynolds encouraged any residents with questions or concerns about the district budget to contact him at rreynolds01267@gmail.com so he can talk "about what the budget differences are and why we're making those changes."
 
Reynolds said the district already has received an email from one resident with questions about the planned budget increase.
 
Referring to that correspondent and for the benefit of anyone else who may have been viewing Wednesday's virtual meeting, Reynolds explained that the fire district is a separate municipal entity apart from town government with its own taxing authority. Residents do receive a single tax bill, but that is a matter of convenience for taxpayers and efficiency for government; the fire district, which has a much smaller budget, relies on the town tax collectors to collect revenue and pass it along to the district.
 
One concern raised by the resident who wrote the district about the budget was a plan to acquire more than $28,000 in equipment that will be paid for with funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
 
"That is all completely reimbursable under the CARES Act," Reynolds said. "What we've done is taken an opportunity to identify this funding that's available to us that will allow us to accelerate the expansion of the use of technology in the district at no cost to the community."
 
The annual election for the Prudential Committee will be held Tuesday, May 25, at Williamstown Elementary School from 4 to 7 p.m. David Moresi will stand for re-election to his three-year seat, and Lyndsay Neathawk is running to replace departing committee member Ed McGowan.
 
The annual district meeting will follow at 7:30 in the school's gymnasium. A request for a no-excuse absentee ballot for the district election is available here.

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Williamstown Fire District Looks at Recruitment Need

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Fire District needs to work on the message it conveys to potential recruits and consider new models for service to make it a more attractive option for residents.
 
That was part of the message the Prudential Committee received last week from the community advisory committee the committee established last year.
 
Jeffrey Thomas, who chairs the advisory group, dropped by the Prudential Committee''s first in-person meeting since before the pandemic to share some input from his group.
 
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