Cheshire voters to decide on budget with 4.3 percent spending hike
CHESHIRE >> Voters will decide on a $5.5 million budget at the annual town meeting on Monday.
The proposed fiscal 2017 spending plan is largely free of major changes over the previous year, calling for a 4.3 percent increase in town spending and a small drop of 0.2 percent in assessment to the Adams Cheshire Regional School District.
The warrant also includes proposals to borrow for two capital purchases — a new $125,000 truck for the Highway Department and a new $35,000 police cruiser — that couldn't fit in the budget as the town approaches $15,000 of its tax levy limit.
"We've done the best we can to stay under [Proposition] 2 1/2," said Select Board Chairman Paul Astorino.
The budget was balanced with the use of $170,000 in reserves, Astorino noted, leaving the town with only about $81,000 remaining.
"We're not fat, we're not poor, but we're not in the best of shape," Astorino said.
If the borrowing is approved at town meeting, the purchases will require a special debt exclusion that also will be decided by town voters. The payments for the truck would not hit the town's budget until fiscal 2018.
The budget includes raises of 2.5 percent for a majority of the town's employees and elected officials, including the Select Board, town administrator and town clerk.
As is the case in many area towns, Cheshire's employee health insurance costs skyrocketed this year, jumping a full 14 percent. Employee health insurance now costs Cheshire $264,167, an increase of $32,442 over fiscal 2016, and accounts for 10 percent of the town's operating expenses.
Expenses tied to retirement funds saw a more modest increase of 4.8 percent, or $4,005, this year.
Police officers' salaries took a noticeable rise this year from $82,493 to $97,500.
The budget also calls for a $20,000 to the town's capital stabilization account, which was not budgeted last year.
The annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in Cheshire Elementary School.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.
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