Sheffield voters narrowly pass school budget

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SHEFFIELD — Following a modicum of discussion, voters at Monday's annual town meeting narrowly passed the school budget on a vote of 148-126.

A total of 276 of the town's 2,309 registered voters, or 11 percent, participated in the meeting.

The town's assessment to the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, a total of $6.2 million, was the principal topic of discussion. Overall, the figure represented a 1.9 percent increase over this year.

Both the Selectmen and the Finance Committee had voted against supporting the figure in the week prior to the meeting.

One of the principal reasons, according to Finance Committee member David Steindler, was that the town's student population has shrunk 30 percent over the past several years, but the town's assessments continued to rise.

However, a number of passionate supporters arose from the audience to support the budget. John Lowenstein, a 2011 graduate of Mount Everett Regional School, called it "an exceptional school," based on his educational experiences.

"This was a special place for me," he said. "It was a special place to start."

In connection with that article, the town was able to pass over an article calling for raising a total of $88,000 to cover a shortfall when the town was unaddressed by the district this fiscal year.

Vito Valentini, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee, explained that the committee erased the shortfall by taking funds from the district's Excess and Deficiency account. That account, called the E&D account, is the district's "rainy day" account that funds emergencies.

The rest of the 26-article warrant was approved, except for Article 24. Voters defeated a bylaw amendment to allow electronically lighted signs.

Other articles that were approved include transferring funds from several accounts to pay for a $60,000 truck for the Highway Dept.; $84,000 for vocational tuition; $126,000 for waste management; $44,000 for town building repairs and $25,000 for the town's share of the cost of a paving hot box for the Highway Department. Sheffield and New Marlborough are sharing the equipment.

The town's general government budget of $303,307 was passed without comment.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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