Great Barrington voters to decide on $500,000 increase to school budget assessment

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> Voters at annual town meeting on Monday will weigh in on the town's $12.4 million assessment to the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, which represents about a $500,000 increase over this year's budget.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Monument Mountain Regional High School.

The town's proposed municipal budget for fiscal 2017 is $10,879,822, a small decrease over this year.

A group of voters calling themselves the Green Tea Party is advocating defeat of the school budget, on the basis that the overall increase is a heavy burden.

During a public hearing in March, members of both the Select Board and Finance Committee have voted, each by a 3-2 margin, to support the budget.

But at the meeting, Selectman Chairman Sean Stanton suggested that voting down the budget might be an appropriate action.

The district assesses towns on what is essentially a per-pupil basis.

But per pupil costs in Great Barrington are greater than similar costs in Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, based, in part, on Great Barrington's higher tax rate.

The Berkshire Hills Regional School District has created a Regional Agreement Amendment Committee to attempt to balance the disparity. But it will not happen this year.

Backing by two of the three district towns is needed to approve the school budget.

Voters also will be asked to approve spending $600,000 for new fire truck. This expenditure would still require successful debt exclusion vote at the annual town elections May 17.

One of the more discussed items at a recent Select Board meeting was a home rule petition to the state Legislature to enable the town to impose a 5 cent per-gallon gas tax within the town.

The added revenue, according to Stanton, would generate about $500,000 to be used for road and bridge repairs. The board's thinking is that citizens of many neighboring towns, such as Sheffield, Alford and Monterey, as well as tourists, use the roads of the town. Such a tax will help compensate for any wear and tear on town byways.

Voters also will ponder a number of bylaw revisions, including the refinement of a mixed use district south of the Main Street corridor down to the Barrington Fairgrounds. The bylaw would refine parking, renovation and regulate the permitting process.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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