|Lanesborough Calling Special Town Meeting For Mt. Greylock Budget|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
10:30PM / Wednesday, July 20, 2011
|The Board of Selectmen said they will take the assessment for Mount Greylock to a special town meeting vote.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Raising the town's assessment to the Mount Greylock Regional High School may come on the backs of town workers, the Board of Selectmen said Wednesday night.
The Mount Greylock School Committee resubmitted last week the same budget that Lanesborough voters shorted by $30,000 at the annual town meeting. Town officials said Wednesday they will take it to a special town meeting, where the budget would need to be voted on a second time.
If it fails again, Lanesborough is expected to lose at a district meeting with voters from both towns.
"When push comes to shove, we're going to have to lay people off. We're going to have to cut," Selectman William Prendergast said. "They [Williamstown] has the money to handle it. We don't."
According to Town Administrator Paul Boudreau, the recently passed state budget put Lanesborough's budget $14,000 short and the additional $30,000 for the school would force the town to cut $44,000 out of its budget in order to avoid a proposition 2 1/2 override vote.
However, Boudreau said the town could balance the budget by inflating its expected revenues and bank on receiving $21,000 from the state in funds that were not spent in fiscal 2011. But those funds are uncertain.
Finance Committee Chairman Bill Stevens said he would not support boosting the town's expected revenue numbers and the Selectmen did not want to spend money that is not yet guaranteed to come to the town.
"My feeling is that we're going to have to come up with that $30,000," Stevens said.
The dispute centers on reserve funds. Both the school and the town have budgets in the $10 million range and neither side wants to dip further into their reserve accounts.
Because Williamstown significantly outnumbers Lanesborough in population, the Selectmen expect the town to lose at a regional school district vote. Stevens suggested that the Finance Committee begin to draft additional articles for the town meeting to cut the approved budget to pay for the higher assessment.
The difference between the two town's budgets are striking. While Lanesborough may be forced to fire employees, Williamstown gave town employees raises.
Despite the gloomy outlook, the Selectmen said the town voters deserve the chance to vote on the budget. The town could avoid the special meeting and the higher assessment would automatically be approved. The special election comes at a cost of about $500.
"The townspeople voted not to give them the $30,000. It should go back to the townspeople," Selectman John Goerlach said.
Goerlach advocated for reaching middle ground on the budget but School Committee member Shari Peltier said the committee did not feel the budget could be cut anymore.
"We never, ever suggested cutting the high school budget," Stevens responded. "We said re-fund it."
The tension between the two towns was apparent when the discussion led to Stevens accusing the School Committee of building its budget around Williamstown's requests. School Committee Chairman Robert Ericson responded by saying he personally, as a representative for Lanesborough, pushed building the budget within Lanesborough's means and he now looks bad in the eyes of other committee members after the budget was voted down.
"There were people on the committee that wanted to ask for more," Ericson said. "We actually keyed the budget to Lanesborough."
Peltier criticized the town's handling of rising health care costs and suggested that the board should have switched to a different provider. Boudreau contended that the town did ask for quotes but the other providers could not provide the insurance needed that satisfied collective bargaining agreements.