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Dalton officials have learned that the town’s free cash flow may decrease in 2014.

DALTON -- With state aid flatlining for the past decade, Dalton officials are feeling the pinch.

And town employees may feel the pinch as well next year; nonunion workers -- in Town Hall, the library and elsewhere -- may have to forgo cost of living adjustments in fiscal 2015, according to Town Manager Kenneth Walto.

The Selectmen this week learned the town’s free cash flow in fiscal 2014 will probably fall short of last year’s $850,000 total by about $350,000.

"It’s always a battle," Dalton Select Board Chairman John Boyle said Thursday. "Free cash consists of two things: revenues to the town and leftover funds and appropriations. When your budgets are tight and there’s little money available, you’ll often end up with fewer free cash dollars."

Contributing to the overall shortage of funds, Walto pointed out, is the fact that state aid has remained flat for most of a decade.

In fact, Dalton received $1,002,426 in unrestricted general government aid in 2010 and only $962,329 in the current fiscal year.

Prior to this week’s development, planning of fiscal 2015’s budget placed the town at roughly $136,000 above the Proposition 2.5 levy limit. Now that figure will probably drop to around $40,000, Walto said. Under the circumstances, non-union employees are poised to get the brunt of it.

Selectmen chose to act at their regular meeting Monday. They voted 4-0, with one abstention, in favor of sending a letter to Central Berkshire Regional School District. Their request? That the district level-fund Dalton’s fiscal 2015 appropriation and adjudicate roughly $158,000 extra the town will pay into the district in fiscal 2013.

The latter sum was the result of a flub in the state formula for calculating assessments, which caused Dalton and Becket to be over- and undercharged, respectively. The district was not responsible for the miscalculation.

"We’re hopeful," Boyle said. "We’ve had informal conversations with School Committee members to let them know that this issue is still alive in Dalton."

To reach Phil Demers:
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