Stipends get ax as Phillipston officials button up proposed budget

For Athol Daily News
Published: 5/24/2020 11:48:52 AM
Modified: 5/24/2020 11:48:50 AM

PHILLIPSTON — Members of the Selectboard and Finance Committee last week nailed down details of the town’s proposed budget for FY21.

The $4.45 million spending package represents a reduction of nearly $230,000 from the current year’s budget. If all goes according to plan, the town would end the year with a $23,000 surplus.

Much of that amount comes from the elimination of stipends for elected municipal officials. The only elected position that will continue to receive an annual salary is that of Town Clerk, which will pay $46,030 in the coming year.

In the current year’s budget, the three members of the Selectboard split just over $9,100; $6,500 was shared by the five members of the Planning Board; Phillipston’s two members of the Narragansett Regional School Committee shared approximately $5,600; the three Board of Assessors members split $4,500; and the three members of the Board of Health shared nearly $3,600. The town moderator, Constable, and members of the Cemetery Commission each earned between $300 and $350.

Stipends have been justified over the years because most elected boards and committees, except for the Selectboard, have no staff support and are responsible for their own research, as well as clerical work and research. The elimination of stipends will save the town more than $30,000.

The tax collector was given $27,000 in FY20, but the office is being combined with that of treasurer next fiscal year and will become an appointed rather than elected position. The proposed salary for the new office is set at $52,000.

The position of clerk for each committee has also been eliminated, as has the office of assistant treasurer/tax collector. While full-and part-time employees of the town won’t see a cut in pay, which had been considered, none will receive raises in the coming year.

The town’s assessment for the Narragansett Regional School District for FY21 is $1,646,000, an increase of about $45,000. The town will also contribute about $205,000 to the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, or $16,000 more than in FY20.

It’s possible that changes in the proposed budget may have to be made since cities and towns have yet to learn how much state aid they are likely to receive for municipal and educational expenses. Phillipston Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn said at recent meeting that state officials anticipate a drop in expected revenues of between $3 and $5 million due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The warrant for the Annual Town Meeting is just about set, but officials are waiting for town counsel to get back to them with wording for two proposed moratoria. One moratorium would place a temporary halt on the construction of large, ground-mounted solar arrays, while the other would temporarily prohibit the establishment of any retail marijuana businesses in town. Those two questions bring to 28 the total number of articles Phillipston voters will face at the Town Meeting, scheduled June 16.

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