New warrant streamlines Windsor town meeting; budget, special articles passed

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WINDSOR — A new warrant format that included explanations helped streamline the annual Windsor Town Meeting, which passed the fiscal 2017 budget with only minor changes and approved the special articles.

Selectman Douglas McNally said the $1.79 million budget for the next July-to-June fiscal year passed Monday evening with adjustments to just a few items. A legal/consultant fund request related to the now-suspended Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. project was reduced from $25,000 to $12,500, and a 2 percent raise for the Council on Aging outreach worker, which had inadvertently not been included in the budget plan, was added.

Town Clerk Madeline Scully said the final bottom line figure, which was to be determined Tuesday, is expected to be within a few dollars of the proposed overall budget total.

Included in that was a Central Berkshire Regional School District assessment that was down for fiscal 2017 from the $1,052,414 approved for the current year to $986,108.

The major reason cited for the decline was a dip in enrollment of Windsor students in CBRSD schools. The budget also included a 2 percent salary increase for town employees.

Overall, the town operating budget was down slightly from the $1.8 million approved last spring.

The spending plan calls for a local tax levy of $1.44 million and includes state aid and other receipts of $684,873.

With capital improvement spending included, the budget totaled $2.13 million, according to information posted with the annual warrant on the town website — www.windsormass.com.

In addition to spending articles, town meeting voters approved a Windsor Solar Generation Bylaw, which is required for the town to be able to consider commercial solar projects, and establishes standards and regulations under which such projects could receive local permits.

And voters approved seeking special state legislation to allow Police Chief Thomas Barnaby to serve past the mandatory retirement age of 65 through April 2020. That article passed unanimously, Scully said.

Another proposal that passed changed the method of payment for the town tax collector from the fees that are collected to a salary, with fees reverting to the town. The fees in the small town were not sufficient to attract a qualified collector, officials said. A similar change was made last year pertaining to the building inspector's position.

McNally and Scully said a new warrant format that included a set of explanations for each article to be voted on was an apparent success.

"It went rather quickly," Scully said, adding that residents also were able to asked questions via Facebook prior to the meeting and receive a response from officials.

McNally said the format was developed by officials with help from new Town Accountant Paul Lisi, who also works with other towns in the area.

"It really expedited the meeting," McNally said, referring to the new format.

"There was not an adversarial atmosphere at all," the selectman added. "I would say it was very collegial town meeting."

Although the line item for legal or consulting costs was reduced from $25,000 to $12,500, McNally said many residents seemed energized by the challenge posed by the proposed natural gas pipeline in town and interested in developing a vision for where the town wants to go in terms of development and related issues. He said there will be consideration of working with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to flesh out those ideas.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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