Cheshire OKs budget with 4.3 percent spending hike


CHESHIRE — With some minor tweaks, voters approved a $4.6 million spending plan at annual town meeting on Monday.

The proposed spending plan called for a 4.3 percent increase in the town's operating expenses and a small decrease of 0.2 on assessment to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District. Overall, the fiscal 2017 budget the Select Board brought to voters on Tuesday is slightly more than $100,000 more than the previous year's plan.

After a few in-meeting adjustments to the budget prompted by voters at the meeting, Cheshire edged closer to its levy limit, but did not reach it, averting the need for a Proposition 2 ½ override vote.

The meeting was attended by 116 voters.

Two notable borrowing proposals — one for a roughly $125,000 highway department truck, and a second for a new police cruiser at a cost of about $35,000 — each were approved. But because the town can't make the purchases without surpassing the levy limit, there will be a debt exclusion vote held in July.

The borrowing would not hit the town's books until the 2018 budget.

The budget includes 2.5 percent increases in the salary or stipend of numerous town officials and employees, including the Select Board, town administrator and town clerk. The Board of Health and wire inspector successfully petitioned for slightly higher than budgeted raises at the town meeting.

Water Commissioner Francis Waterman, whose salary was cut from $14,000 to $7,000 in the Select Board's proposed budget, requested his full salary be reinstated. Selectmen argued that with the recent creation of a water superintendent position, the salary reduction was warranted.

Voters agreed, turning down Waterman's request by a slight majority.

Like several other communities in the area, including North Adams, Cheshire saw sizable 14 percent increases to its employee health insurance costs, which now comprise about 10 percent of the budget.

The budget was balanced through the use of $170,000 from the free cash, which will now dwindle to about $81,000.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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