$6.4M budget, slew of capital projects up for vote in Whately

STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-17-2024 1:08 PM

WHATELY — Voters will be asked to consider a $6.4 million budget for fiscal year 2025 and a slew of capital projects at Annual Town Meeting.

The meeting will be held outside Whately Elementary School on Tuesday, June 18, at 6 p.m. The $6.4 million operating budget represents a 6.3% increase over the current year’s figures, with several factors driving the increases, including a $108,000 increase from Whately Elementary School and $89,000 from Frontier Regional School.

“We got some pretty big hits from the schools,” explained Selectboard Chairman Fred Baron, emphasizing they don’t want to undercut funding for the schools. “For a year where we’ve got so many big hits, I really don’t think it’s a bad budget.”

To take the load off residents, Article 10 requests a transfer of $225,000 from free cash to reduce the tax levy.

Capital requests

Residents also will be asked to consider six capital appropriations relating to the elementary school, Highway Department, Police Department and S. White Dickinson Memorial Library.

Articles 13 through 15 ask residents to transfer free cash amounts of $54,000, $10,000 and $13,500, respectively, for the installation of electrical subpanels, the purchase and installation of preschool restroom flooring and the installation of exterior doors at Whately Elementary School.

Article 16 asks residents to appropriate $30,000 from the Vehicle Stabilization Account and $36,000 from free cash for the purchase of a hybrid pickup truck for the Highway Department, which will replace its current 15-year-old truck. Similarly, Article 18 asks voters to transfer $65,000 from free cash to buy and equip a hybrid cruiser for the Police Department.

Baron said money is needed to maintain the school’s old building and all department equipment needs to be replaced at some point in time, but the town tries “to get as much life out of the capital investments” as possible.

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“They’re always going to be there,” Baron said of capital purchases. “You buy things, you use them and you replace them.”

Bylaw amendments

There are also several Planning Board proposals on the table, with Article 27 topping the list. The article is a Planning Board request for residents to amend the town’s housing bylaw to add a new section dedicated to community housing, which the board says will promote housing diversity and affordability.

The proposal mirrors the state’s Chapter 40B by relaxing dimension requirements and allowing more units per lot, but requires projects still go through the local approval process.

“What we’re proposing here is that the town give, in its bylaws, many of the same waivers that would be effective in 40B … but the approval would not come from the state, it would come from the town,” Planning Board member Judy Markland said at a March meeting. “The idea here is that nobody gets any more rights than they would have had before or any fewer rights; we’re just transferring the permit-enabling process to the town so there’s some control or protections.”

Community housing projects would be eligible to be built in the Agriculture/Residential 1, Agriculture/Residential 2 and Commercial districts with a special permit. No housing projects are allowed in the Commercial-Industrial or Industrial zoning districts.

Citizen’s petitions

Along with the 29 town-submitted articles, there are also three citizen’s petitions on the warrant for Tuesday.

The first, Article 30, asks residents to consider petitioning the United States Postal Service to consolidate the town’s four ZIP codes down to just 01093. The topic was brought before residents in the summer of 2023, as the Selectboard explored changing the town’s ZIP code, but a forum attended by dozens of residents resulted in a nearly even-split community response, which led to the Selectboard to stick with the status quo on the proposal.

Article 31 is a citizen’s petition asking residents to adopt a resolution calling for Congress and President Joe Biden to “take every measure necessary to end the war in Gaza.” If adopted, the article requests the town clerk send a copy of the resolution to Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern.

The final citizen’s petition, which is part of an initiative spearheaded by Frontier middle schoolers, requests the town petition the Legislature to lower the municipal voting age to 16 years old in an effort to encourage more civic participation in towns.

“I thought it would be a really cool way to learn more about the community, and as I learned more about it, I realized that it is something I do strongly think should pass,” Whately resident and Frontier seventh grader Araceli McCoy said in an April story published in the Greenfield Recorder.

The measure was brought forward in the other three Frontier towns, where it was approved in Conway and Sunderland but shot down by three votes in Deerfield.

Other articles up for consideration include:

■Transferring $6,500 from free cash for resealing exterior brick at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library.

■Transferring $199,400 of Community Preservation Act revenue into the town’s CPA reserve accounts for future use.

■Appropriating $5,000 and $16,525 in CPA funds to pay for the replacement of rotten sills at the town-owned barn at 215 Chestnut Plain Road and to pay for two batting cages at Herlihy Field, respectively.

■Adopting an updated zoning map that excludes areas designated in the now-abandoned Whately Water District public water supply.

The full Town Meeting warrant, as well as explanations, can be found a bit.ly/3VpP5Bm.