School spending drives 3 percent hike in Lanesborough budget

LANESBOROUGH — A nearly $200,000 boost in education accounts for the entire increase in the town's proposed budget for fiscal 2018 starting July 1.

The $11.4 million spending plan includes the $7.04 million taxpayers would fund to operate Lanesborough Elementary School, along with the municipality's assessment to send local students to Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown and McCann Technical School in North Adams.

Town Manager Paul Sieloff unveiled the plan Monday night before the Finance Committee.

The school funding represents an increase of almost 3 percent from the current $6.84 million. The remaining portion of the budget, $4.38 million, is practically level-funded compared to fiscal 2017, which ends June 30.

"The budget reflects a 3 percent increase in the tax rate; 2 percent of that is the capital [budget] increase for the schools," Sieloff said. "I give the schools a lot of credit for maintaining their operating budgets."

The town manager noted Lanesborough has been able to absorb school spending hikes in recent years, but Finance Committee Chairman Ray Jones said residents have told him they are concerned about school spending.

Jones said he has urged those residents to start speaking out at meetings regarding the budget.

"You have to come and [express] your opinion," he said.

Jones also was miffed that representatives of the Grade 7-12 Mount Greylock Regional School District backed out of a scheduled face-to-face discussion with the finance board on Monday to review the Greylock budget.

"It's very disturbing to me," he said. "If I knew they weren't coming, I would have canceled this meeting," he said.

Greylock officials had notified Seiloff late last week of the change of heart, but not Jones. Seiloff apologized for failing to promptly relay the cancellation message. Jones felt he should have received an email directly from the school district, since he was the one who in early February requested Greylock officials meet with his committee.

Among Seiloff's notable changes in town spending for fiscal 2018 — if approved at the annual town meeting in June:

- $3,900 for a part-time professional planner. Lanesborough already hired Andrew Groff this winter, paying him from existing funds. Groff is also the full-time planner in Williamstown.

- $18,792 to hire a financial assistant to archive town records, be cross-trained to perform certain tasks of other Town Hall officials, and to help the town reconcile accounts that aren't up-to-date.

- Consolidate line items into like accounts, such as the town secretary and her assistant under the town hall account and the mowing of municipal property placed with the highway budget.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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