Friday May 11, 2012

SANDISFIELD -- A Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit override is at the heart of Sandisfield's annual town meeting and election, with the town asking voters to budget an additional $150,000 past its levy limit to prevent it from dipping heavily into its free cash account for another year or face cuts to services.

"We have a lot of people in town that are struggling in this tough economy, but our levy limit is not viable," said Selectmen Chair Patrick Barrett, who is running unopposed for another three-year term.

At town meeting on Saturday, voters will be asked to consider a 74-article warrant with expenditures tota ling $2.89 million.

A levy limit override failed at last year's town election, causing the town to pull $312,500 from its free cash account, a practice which the town has been leaning on for several years but which Barrett stressed was not sustainable.

If the Proposition 2 1/2 override fails again this year, town departments would face cuts even though, Barrett said, they already operate close to the bone.

"Most departments feel that they don't have a lot of wiggle room to cut, and any cuts would be extremely detrimental to the basic services that we provide in town," Barrett said.

Included on the warrant is a request to commit $200,000 to partially fund fixing New Hartford Road, a five-mile stretch extending south from Route 57. On the ballot, the town is requesting voters exempt that amount from the levy limit.

"The condition of the road is deteriorating rapidly," Barrett said.

The police department is also asking the town for $10,000 to create an emergency fund to provide more leeway to respond to break-ins or accidents during off-hours without effecting regular-duty patrol. As it functions currently, off-duty responses to emergencies cost the department hours from its regular patrolling.

Several recent home break-ins at the Otis Woodlands and on Cronk Road have further strained the resources of the small department, Barrett said.

The largest line item on the town's budget is its portion of the Farmington River Regional School District, which tallies to $1.3 million, an increase of $25,000 or 2.2 percent from last year, Barrett said.

Town Meeting will also take up a "right to farm" bylaw, which protects "New England scale" agriculture from neighbors' complaints about the "incidental noise, odors, dust and fumes" of farming.

At the town election Monday, voters will consider the levy limit override and exemption questions.

On the ballot, eight races are unopposed, and no one is running for a five-year position on the Planning Board.


If you go ...

What: Sandisfield town meeting & election

When: Town meeting: 10 a.m., Saturday; town election, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Town Hall, 3 Silverbrook Road