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Cheshire Passes Budget, Rejects Recall Measures

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass.—The annual town meeting passed an operating budget of $6.7 million for fiscal 2022 Monday and approved a salary for a full-time town administrator. But voters balked at making the town clerk appointed or instituting means to recall elected officials.

Voters gathered in the auditorium at Hoosac Valley Regional Middle and High School to deliberate on the budget and various other articles in the town meeting warrant.

Finance Committee Chairman John Tremblay said, "our committee feels that the budget this year is a good one." He said the most critical part of the budget was the full-time town administrator position.

Indeed, residents spent a lot of time debating the merits of having a full-time town administrator. Gary Trudeau, a Cheshire resident, was an outspoken opponent of transforming the position from part time to full time. "We never needed a full-time town administrator before," he said, so he didn't see the purpose of having one now.

He said many of the proposed budget increases, including the town administrator position, were "just plain irresponsible."

"We have to stop coming up with fantasy budgets," he said, arguing that Cheshire is already is in financial straits.

Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi responded that Cheshire's financial struggles demonstrated the need for a full-time administrator — someone who can better manage the $7 million budget.

Selectman Jason Levesque read a list of small towns in Berkshire County and other counties and states with similar populations to Cheshire's, almost all of which had full-time town administrators. Their salaries ranged from $70,000 to over $100,000. Cheshire's proposed town administrator salary is $80,000.

The town overwhelmingly supported the measure, and the budget passed with no serious amendments.

In other business:

  • Articles 3-14 passed without much debate. Trudeau opposed Article 9 on the grounds that the provisions of Massachusetts General Law Ch. 15, Sec. 9A would make it harder for potential candidates for office to take out nomination papers.
  • Article 15 passed, though two residents wondered why the tax collector should be made an appointed position, rather than an elected position, which it is now. The Board of Selectmen said that this provides accountability, whereas an elected position is not accountable to the board.
  • Articles 16 and 17 did not pass. Article 16 would have made the town clerk an appointed position. The current town clerk opposed making the position appointed on the grounds that the clerk should be accountable to the voters, rather than the Select Board. After much discussion, the town rejected Article 16. Article 17 proposed petitioning the Massachusetts General Assembly to allow for the recall of elected officials in the town of Cheshire. Most voters vocally opposed the measure on the grounds that elected officials could be removed by malicious actors for whatever reason, so long as they received the correct number of signatures.

Tags: town meeting 2021,   

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Cheshire to Obtain Review of Financial Procedures

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen has begun the process of cleaning up some of the town's procedures that will help the government run more smoothly.

This appears to be a result of new Town Administrator Jennifer Morse, who is a full-time employee with more time to manage the town's resources than Cheshire has had before.

At the meeting Tuesday, Morse presented some new or updated forms that were approved by the board. These included time sheets, a special permit application, and a purchasing policy.

She also presented a product from the Technical Assistance Bureau, which is part of the state's Division of Local Services. The product in question is a free financial management review, she said, which "really look[s] into the accounting, the treasurer, the collector, [and] the assessor's piece of how the town functions."

"You will find things that you're not happy about," Morse said. "But it's things that need some work."

Morse said she has worked with the bureau before in other communities, and has found it helpful. "They're great to work with," she said.

The board unanimously voted to join the waiting list for the bureau, which will come in October and issue a report to the town by the end of the year.

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