PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday approved a fiscal 2017 budget of $2.45 million, while also taking time to mark the organization's 50th anniversary.
Assistant Director Thomas Matuszko said the overall budget is down $525,073 from the current budget, or about 18 percent, but the decrease is almost entirely in the "subcontracts" category. That involves work done by consultants or other firms funded with grant money that passes from the source through the commission budget.
The net commission operating budget for the next July-to-June fiscal year is $1.8 million, up about 3 percent from $1.74 million for the current year.
Matuszko also noted that "there are a number of [state or federal] grant decisions pending, most notably some Brownfields grant applications and some environmental applications," which could expand the overall budget.
And a report from Matuszko to the commissioners, who represent the 32 Berkshire cities and towns, also cited an increase in total salaries, from $1.02 million to $1.06 million, in part reflecting staff raises; and an overall decrease of 4 percent in employee benefit costs, from $467,512 to $448,053 next year, reflecting a relatively low increase in insurance costs for the year and fewer employees taking health and dental insurance.
Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said the $210,691 in the next budget for local technical assistance to Berkshire communities is contingent upon the Legislature approving sufficient funding for the state's 13 regional planning commissions, or Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
He said local technical assistance line item remains unapproved, and likely will be, but it is regularly used as "a bargaining chip" in budget negotiations between the House and Senate before being included in the final state budget.
The BRPC assists Berkshire cities and towns on a range of planning topics, including community and economic development, community planning, data and information services, emergency preparedness planning, environmental and energy planning, regional services, public health planning and services and transportation, according to the commission's website, www.berkshireplanning.org.
BRPC also is responsible for regional transportation planning programs and projects in the region, and is responsible for regional review procedures as required by various federal and state programs.
Most of the commission's budget revenue comes from grants or funding contracts that support the commission staff and operations. An assessment to cities and towns provides a total of $97,086 in the fiscal 2017 budget, up just over $1,000 from the current year.
Commission members on Thursday also marked the organization's founding in 1966 with a "birthday cake" following the meeting. Karns and commission Chairwoman Sheila Irvin oversaw the ceremonial cutting of the cake.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.