West Stockbridge voters to weigh 3.3 percent spending hike


WEST STOCKBRIDGE >> Voters on Monday will consider a proposed $5.1 million budget for fiscal 2017, a 3.3 percent increase over the current spending plan.

The budget and 38 articles are on the annual town meeting warrant. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at the Village School, 21 State Line Road.

The increase in spending of $160,934 would increase the town's property tax rate about 42 cents — from $12.33 to $12.84 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The average tax bill will increase approximately $170 based on the value of an average single-family home, which in West Stockbridge is $412,586. The average tax bill increase for owners of single-family homes in West Stockbridge has been $113 over the last seven years, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Last year, voters were asked to consider whether the town should borrow almost $2 million to develop a high-speed broadband network. This year, there are no big-ticket items on the warrant.

"We're taking a quiet year," Town Administrator Mark Webber said.

The biggest line item is the town's share of the three-town Berkshire Hills Regional School District's operating budget, which is scheduled to rise $73,113, or 2.6 percent, to $2.87 million.

Substantial year-to-year line item budget changes include a 14 percent increase in health insurance with no change in enrollment; a 23 percent rise in expenses for the town's share of the BHRSD's capital budget; a 19 percent increase in community health, reflecting a rise in the Community Health RN's health insurance premiums; and a 17 percent increase in county retirement. The latter increase reflects a rise in payroll and assessment for unfunded future liability, which is projected to be satisfied by 2020.

Cemetery tree removal is scheduled to increase by $3,500, or 100 percent. That funding is expected to cover the removal of the remaining problem spruces at the town cemetery on Route 41.

The town also is seeking authorization to borrow $150,000 for three departmental equipment items: the replacement of a Highway Department one-ton plow sander; a new van for the Council on Aging; and a pickup truck for the superintendent of buildings and grounds.

Three items have been placed on the warrant by citizen petitions: measures that would require any town committee or board to schedule a "citizen's speak time;" a $3,000 appropriation to install microphones and sound equipment for Select Board meetings; and a discussion and vote to adopt term limits for selectmen and all other elected town officials.

The town's bond rating is currently AA, according to town officials.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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