Sunday May 6, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Voters here will be asked to consider 45 warrant articles on Monday, including a $24.5 million budget, a temporary prohibition of large-scale solar projects, and the adoption of the Community Preservation Act.

The annual town meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Monday, at Monument Moun tain Reg ional High School.

The 2013 budget represents an increase of $656,000, or 2.8 percent, above current spending.

The town’s general operating budget is actually set to decrease by nearly $29,000, but the overall budget increase can be tied to increased spending on capital improvements and the town’s share of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District budget.

The town’s $11.6 million assessment by Berkshire Hills is up by $285,000, or 2.5 percent.

The 2013 budget would increase the local property tax rate to $13.33 per $1,000 of valuation, an increase of 21 cents, or 1.6 percent. With the average home in town valued at $374,500, the new tax rate would result in the average tax bill increasing $78.54 to $4,992 a year.

The town is requesting a $700,000 fire truck to replace a 28-year-old vehicle. The article is recommended by the Select Board, but not by the Finance Committee. The purchase request will also appear on the May 14 town elections, where voters will decide whether to exempt it from Proposition 21Ž2.

Voters also will be asked to approve $4.5 million for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. The town received a competitive 2 percent loan for those improvements, and the funds will be paid back over time through sewer rates.

Another article seeks the approval of a tax break agreement for the presumed buyers of the former fire station on Castle Street. The agreement is believed to be the last major hurdle between the town and 20 Castle Street, LLC, in finalizing its deal.

A 13-month prohibition of new large-scale, ground-mounted solar installations will go before voters. The article is in response to a proposed solar farm off Seekonk Road. The company behind the proposal still hasn’t formally submitted an application to the town, but a number of neighbors were outspoken in their desire to stop the project.

The Select Board is also backing a citizens’ petition to adopt the Community Pres ervation Act. The act would put a 3 percent surcharge on property taxes, while providing exemptions for low- and moderate-income residents. The funds, which can be matched by the state, can be used for public or private investments in preservation of open space and historic resources, as well as expanding affordable housing.

The petition would also have to be approved at the ballot box, and the petitioners have opted to wait until the November elections to do so.

There are 16 citizens’ petitions that appear on the warrant.

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
Follow him on Twitter: @BE_TrevorJones.