NEW MARLBOROUGH — Residents approved nearly all items Saturday at New Marlborough’s annual town meeting, endorsing a budget that raises a range of employee salaries and increases one-time spending.
Approximately 65 to 70 residents attended the meeting, said Steven Klein, who chairs the Finance Committee. All items passed, except a proposed change to a town bylaw concerning abandoned or unregistered motor vehicles, boats and trailers.
In fiscal 2022, the town’s operating budget is up 3 percent, to $2,931,376, its school budget is down 6 percent, to $2,785,867, and its stabilization/capital expenses are up 300 percent, to $305,758.
The $177,735 decrease in the school budget — about 6 percent — is because of a decline in the number of New Marlborough students attending Southern Berkshire Regional School District schools. The smaller school budget frees up money to go toward a proposed $85,066 (3 percent) net increase in the operating budget, covering a total increase in employee compensation of about $88,000. The town plans to shift a greater share of spending toward one-time expenses in the coming years, starting with a $180,573 increase this year.
Residents surpassed the two-thirds threshold to authorize $210,000 in debt issuance for a Hatchery Road repair project. As a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, that initiative still requires voter approval through a secret ballot, Klein said. The Hatchery Road project is the first in a series of road repairs that town leaders plan to make after an assessment performed by a highway planning working group. Major road projects are expected to cost more than $2.4 million over five years, but the analysis will be reviewed early in fiscal 2022 by an outside consultant before final recommendations are made.
In the operating budget, many of the increases are in salaries. After the Select Board established a human resources planning group, that group recommended raising New Marlborough employee salaries closer to where they are in surrounding and comparable rural towns. A newly formed Highway Union is in negotiations for a contract covering five employees, according to a budget presentation shared by Klein. Police Department salaries also increase, $17,549, in large part because of additional hours for clerical staff, the presentation said. The budget also would authorize $15,360 for a new human resources director to be shared with nearby towns.