New Salem adopts next year’s budget

  • New Salem Town Hall FILE PHOTO

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 6/21/2018 11:40:26 AM
Modified: 6/21/2018 11:44:15 AM

NEW SALEM — Tuesday night saw New Salem adopt a budget, as well as become the fourth area town to pass a resolution on the state flag and seal.

At the annual Town Meeting, residents passed 40 of 42 articles. A temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments and a bylaw limiting the size of apartments attached to single-family homes were the two articles voted down.

A budget of $2,952,699 passed for the 2019 fiscal year, beginning July 1, an increase of $103,921 over this year’s budget of $2,848,778.

New Salem’s educational expenses make up more than half of the budget and are largely driving the budget increase. The town’s school assessments total $1,792,593 for three schools: the Swift River School, which it funds with neighboring Wendell, the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School and the Franklin County Technical School.

Costs of Special Education, particularly at Mahar, and health care have increased, and contractual pay increases have caused increasing budgets for the schools. Mahar is also funded by Petersham, Wendell and Orange, and has seen cuts to services despite an increasing budget. Late buses, an administrative position and two instructional positions are all cut from Mahar for the coming school year.

New Salem also passed a resolution in support of changing the Massachusetts state flag and seal, joining Gill, Orange and Wendell — the other three Franklin County towns voting the resolution.

The resolution supports a bill introduced by state Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Suffolk, calling for a special commission of “members of the legislature and representatives of the Native Nations of Massachusetts” to recommend changes.

In the lengthy article, several justifications for changing the state flag are given, all having to do with mistreatment of Native Americans in U.S. history.

The article states that Native Americans were kept in a “state of serfdom” in Massachusetts and posits “Native Americans were legally prohibited from even stepping foot into Boston from 1675 until 2004.”

Specific objections to the flag include the heraldic sword above the charge of a Native American man holding a bow. The article claims the broadsword is that of Myles Standish, an early English settler who led attacks against the native population.

Along with the three other towns, New Salem will be forwarding copies of the resolution to local state representatives.

The two articles that were not passed Tuesday would have created prohibitions on recreational marijuana establishments temporarily, and certain types of apartments.

A temporary moratorium on allowing recreational marijuana companies to set up shop in town was proposed.

“The regulation of recreational marijuana raises novel legal, planning, and public safety issues, and the Town needs time to study these issues,” the article reads.

Article 38 would have changed the town’s bylaws regarding “detached accessory” apartments on the same plot as a single-family home. New detached accessory apartments would not be allowed to have a footprint exceeding 400 square feet, in order to preserve the “character” of the town, and the owner of the property would have to live on the property in order to rent out the apartment.

Other articles, which all passed, give notable upgrades to the police, library and Swift River School:

The Police Department is getting $11,801 for short-term borrowing of a police car, $46,586 for a new police car and $2,863 for new pistols.

The New Salem Public Library is getting $12,881 for library construction loan payments, $10,500 for repairs to the siding and roof, $3,750 for repairs to the floor and $2,000 for a new copier.

The Swift River School is getting $37,749, for which voters previously passed a Proposition 2½ tax override, for loan payments on roof and boiler upgrades.

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