STOCKBRIDGE — A preliminary plan outlined by Town Administrator Michael Canales for the Select Board at its meeting last week proposed a fiscal 2023 operating budget of $11.4 million, an increase of 6.2 percent, or $665,000 over the current year’s total.
“This can be our first look,” he said, with more discussion planned at future sessions.
The bulk of the increase is from the $3.62 million proposed assessment to the town for its students educated at the Berkshire Hills Regional School District’s elementary, middle and high school in Great Barrington.
The total — it’s $460,000 higher than the current year — represents a 14.6 percent increase resulting from the addition of seven more Stockbridge students to the Berkshire Hills district’s enrollment, as well as a decline in the number of Great Barrington students.
“We’ve got more kids, which is nice,” Selectman Ernest J. “Chuck” Cardillo said. “Now, we pay for it.”
Canales also noted that the Police Department plans to seek approval to hire an additional officer.
Proposed capital spending includes the purchase of a new fire engine for $960,000, to be financed by a $1.29 million, 20-year loan, though some grant money is a possibility, Canales said. The projected life span for the vehicle is about 20 years.
Spending of up to $4 million is anticipated for infrastructure, including the Tuckerman Bridge and Averic Bridge projects, he stated, potentially to be financed by 20-year bonds at an interest rate of 2 to 4 percent.
Reserve money available to the town includes $2.5 million in free cash and $2.4 million in a stabilization account, which requires two-thirds’ town voter approval for withdrawals to finance specific projects.
“The town is in great financial shape overall,” Canales declared, “except for some deferred-maintenance costs, which are catching up with us.”
Money set aside for OPEB (other post-employment benefits) for municipal retirees, primarily health insurance, totals $3.7 million.
“It’s 100 percent funded, so, we’re in great shape there,” Canales said.
The town has been granted $565,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money, though $33,600 has been committed to Tri-Town Health. The money can be used for any municipal purpose, but it must be spent in the next two years.