Plans for Cheshire Senior/Veteran Tax Work-Off Program Undecided

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The specifics of the senior/veteran tax work-off program are still undecided, which could cause its launch to be delayed to as late as Fiscal Year 2024.

The Board of Selectmen discussed the work-off program extensively at its Tuesday meeting and decided there is still significant work to be done before the town can implement it.

"We have not worked on this in a little bit, but it has resurfaced," said Selectman Jason Levesque.

When implemented, the program would allow eligible seniors age 60 and older to work in the community with payment coming in the form of a lower tax bill. Several members suggested involving other boards in the planning process, with Selectman Mark Biagini recommending that the town start over entirely.

"There's a lot of variables where I think it was rushed into," he said. "I think we should start from scratch, come up with figures on how we want to have it, a set dollar amount for the budget, or how many people can be involved and figure out the budget that way."

Town officials have debating how to implement the program approved by town meeting for some time, since nearly a quarter of the town's residents might qualify for it. The idea was put on the back burner earlier this year.

As of now, there is no specific budget amount decided for the program. The maximum amount that a participant can earn from the program is $1,500.

"We had mentioned in the past that, in order to properly implement this, we would have to have a budget set," Levesque said. "Things that would go into that would be your number of eligible applicants or a cap on applicants. That would need to be discussed because you need to set a certain limitation for that based on what you're budgeting for it."

The board discussed the income threshold for the program, initially set at 400 percent of the federal poverty level, as a potential issue. Board of Assessors Administrator Robin Wadsworth said the original wording of the vote at town meeting did not actually include this number, meaning the town can change it without needing to re-vote.

"The age was approved and the maximum amount for maximum credit," she said. "Those were actually put out there."

Another issue brought up by the board was avoiding redundancy with what jobs the town offers for the work-off program. Previous plans had come up with a list of potential jobs those in the program could choose.

"A lot of the jobs that are on here are ones that are already being done," Biagini said.

Selectman Raymond Killeen said once the board decides on a core list of jobs, there should be an open-ended application question asking about specific skills.

"I think if we come up with those formal jobs that are automatic, and then as a one-off, you'd have on the application you could put OK, I list any special skills you may have," he said. "If they're listed, then maybe there's an exception that could be made because of special skills that someone might be able to use. But if people are rotating in and out, yeah, I think you got to have those core responsibilities first in order to have the structure around the program."

Also discussed at the meeting, the board members unanimously voted to move their meeting day from Tuesdays to Wednesdays.

The board tabled discussion on the host community agreement with Mass Yield Cultivation until a later meeting. The cannabis grower is planning outside cultivation and greenhouses on Wells Road. 

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Cheshire Mammoth Cheese Featured in Netherlands Cheese Magazine Kaas!

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Cheshire Mammoth Cheese is certainly known in these parts, but its fabled journey to Washington, D.C., has turned heads at Nederlands Nationaal Kaaskeurconcours, the Dutch National Cheese Inspection Competition.
"We understood that in certain domestic circles the story of the Mammoth Cheshire Cheese was revered, however, I'm not sure anyone expected this kind of international attention," said John Tremblay of the Cheshire Community Association.
As the story goes, the 1,235-pound wheel of cheese was commissioned by Elder John Leland after the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800. Local historians say Cheshire was the only town in Berkshire County to have voted for Jefferson.  In fact, it is believed that every single vote but one went to Jefferson.
Townspeople converted a cider mill into a giant cheese press and with the help of more than 900 Cheshire cows, the half-ton cheese wheel was created and delivered to the new White House.
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