Vol. III No. 22 11/15/2022
Notes from the Select Board (SB), November 10, Hybrid meeting
- Patrick White, Chair
- Jamie Minacci
- Chuck Cardillo
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- In honor of Veteran's Day, November 11, Harold French led the Pledge of Alliance to the Flag and Merrill Sanderson read the poem "The Noble and the Brave" by Joanna Fuchs
- Special Permit — Jim Finnerty, One Goodrich Street, to add a porch. As it is no more nonconforming that previously, approved
- One day entertainment license for St Paul's Church — December 10th, 6pm — 7:30pm. Rich Bradway described the musical program and light show planned. There will be a charge for musical program inside the church. The light show, designed by Joey Wheaton, on the exterior of the church, is free to the public. License approved
- On November 16th at the Senior Center there will be pie, a program on Stockbridge history presented by Joshua Hall, and a reading of Alice's Restaurant.
- On December 13 lunch at Red Lion — 88 seats available — RSVP by November 28
- Hugh Page discussed the road paving projects. There is $400,000 available for paving. The work has begun and will continue next spring and fall. Some roads marked for repaving are Hawthorne and Rte. 183
- Budget process overview
- Canales said the process will start in January with meetings with department heads to discuss their budget requests for the year. There is a work sheet showing previous years and current request
- White wanted to be sure that his colleagues on the SB had the software to read it
- In addition to operating expenses there are three large capital projects including dredging, Curtisville Bridge, and the walkway from Pine Woods into Town
- White explained the tax rate is based on the budget — meeting the costs of running the Town.
- Canales said "we are strong", that is, Stockbridge has cash put aside in "free cash" (between $1 & $2 million) and three "stabilization funds" (money put aside for special purposes and never used ($2,450,000)
- White said we can lower the tax rate by deferring maintenance and by assuming 80% — 85% of actuals (expenses and income) and thereby soften impact on individual taxpayers of the sky-high valuations
- White explained — since raised rate from 4-6% on rooms and meals tax — can reduce actuals. Also, we can "strategically use" reserves (free cash and stabilization funds) to fund capital projects. However, he pointed out, the reserves may be needed as school costs escalate.
- White and Canales described the Community Electric Aggregation Program (CEA). It is a program Canales put in place while in North Adams. It is intended to lower electric costs for Stockbridge users through collective bargaining.
- White pointed out that acknowledging inflation and higher valuations, they are doing all they can to lower all costs for Stockbridge residents
- Canales said they will put CEA in place as soon as possible. It will strengthen the ability of Stockbridge to negotiate rates.
- Those who joined a few years ago did not have a rate hike while Stockbridge's rate went up 64%. That is because a negotiation with CEA results in fixed rate for 3-5 years and a level rate over a year (not higher in winter, lower in summer). Stockbridge did not join then but will now.
- White mentioned in closing that decisions made should be in light of the anticipated higher school costs and interest rates that will affect future spending.
- SB approved one-day liquor licenses
Editor's Note: The idea of postponing capital projects, specifically dredging, to lower tax rate was raised at the last Finance Committee meeting. Deferring/delaying expenses to lower tax rate was a process engaged many times in years past. The result, we learned this year, makes the cost of the maintenance ten-fold. Lowering the tax rate, especially in a year when valuations rose precipitously, thus relieving taxpayers, is desirable. HOW it is done is very important. The immediate and long-term effects as well as tradeoffs should be taken into account. If it were a choice between delaying dredging (once again) or second homeowners paying more in taxes — which would the second homeowners choose?
Photo: Lionel Delevingne