Adams budget shows town on a 'stable' financial footing


ADAMS -- Ongoing efforts to return Adams to fiscal sustainability have begun to pay off, according to officials working to shape the town's fiscal 2015 budget.

Challenges remain, however, in funding for the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.

The Board of Selectmen this week signed off on the proposed $13.9 million plan, which includes a 0.38 percent increase in the operations budget, and an overall spending increase of 1.58 percent.

"We feel good about this proposal," said Town Administrator Jonathan Butler. "We're not in an ideal situation, but we're stable. We've only had a zero to 2 percent tax increase annually for the last five years."

The proposed budget -- which will come in under the Proposition 2 1/2 limit -- contains new, "responsible," investment in infrastructure, while maintaining reserves, Butler said. He described the approach to the budget as a "continued commitment" to economic development, but also financial stability.

The budget now goes to the Finance Committee for evaluation. After that it goes back to the Select Board for final approval before going before the voters at the annual town meeting in June.

Butler doesn't expect any major changes.

"We haven't had any contentious items in the budget so far," he said.

Butler said the proposed budget is the culmination of a four-year effort to closely manage the town's finances.

"This year's budget reflects a continued review of each line item within this town's budget," Butler said. He said growth is the next step to achieving to a stronger town economy.

"The more business we have in this town, the more activity we have in this town, the more vibrancy we have in this town, the more burden comes off the taxpayers," he said.

The biggest capital investment included in the budget, Butler said, is $165,000 for the town's share in the construction of a train station for the proposed "Hoosac Valley Service" of the Berkshire Scenic Railway. A matching federal grant for $386,000 will pay for the balance of the project.

The budget also includes funding for the Greylock Glen project and increased tourism and marketing efforts -- including the full salary of the newly appointed town tourism director.

There also is a 9.5 percent hike in employee health insurance costs, part of the reason for the 2.67 percent increase in personnel costs.

Addressing long-term stability, Butler's budget includes a $175,000 appropriation to the town's reserve funds. The town should head into next year with about $650,000 in free cash, Butler said.

Finances are more problematic for the school district, which is facing reductions in local and federal aid and an increasing number of school choice students leaving the district.

Residents are facing a 3 percent increase in the assessments from the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and McCann Technical School.

"We're entering unsustainable territory -- you could probably contend we're already there."


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