With $6.27M budget plan, Cheshire officials seek to lessen hit to taxpayers

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CHESHIRE — Spending in the town is expected to climb about $182,000, or nearly 3 percent, in the coming year.

The proposed budget for the fiscal 2020 budget is $6.27 million, but town officials will spend the coming weeks adjusting the plan in hopes of lessening the impact on taxpayers. Town Administrator Ed St. John IV said some expenditures need to be tweaked before the Select Board and Finance Committee agree to send the financial proposal to annual town meeting voters in June.

"There will be areas that will go up a little, but we're looking at the overall impact on the average [property] taxpayer," he told The Eagle.

St. John noted that this is a revaluation year, with all Cheshire residential and commercial property being reassessed before the fiscal 2020 tax bills are issued this year.

The tax rate stands at $13.10 per $1,000 of assessed value of all property in Cheshire.

"We're budgeting $20,000 for new growth, but that's being conservative. Our five-year average is $29,000," he said. The higher the growth, the lower the tax burden.

The Select Board and Finance Committee recently held a joint review of the budget, which included concern over the $17,000 increase in recycling costs.

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Road and bridge repair/maintenance is scheduled to jump from $110,000 to $150,000 after being level funded for fiscal 2019.

Two areas that historically drive up municipal budgets — employee health insurance and public education — won't be a factor when fiscal 2020 begins July 1, according to St. John.

The health insurance account remains unchanged, while the net increase is $9,300 combined in assessments from the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District.

"This is somewhat of a unique year. The $9,000 level has put us in a good position," he said.

If the annual town meeting approves, Cheshire also will rely less on surplus money to reduce the budget's impact on the tax rate. Town officials are proposing a $30,000 decrease, from $170,000 to $140,000, in so-called free cash to help offset spending increases.

"We're trying to stop our dependence on free cash to fund the budget," St. John said. "Its real purpose is for capital expenditures."

One such capital expenditure is the $17,800 the Board of Assessors will need to conduct the property revaluation and $13,000 toward technology improvements. Both will appear as separate articles on the town meeting warrant.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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