Phillipston voters faced with override decision at May 8 Town Election

Phillipston Memorial Elementary School.

Phillipston Memorial Elementary School. File Photo/Greg Vine

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 04-12-2024 5:00 PM

PHILLIPSTON – Acting on the recommendation of the Finance Committee, the Selecboard voted at its meeting last Wednesday to include an article on the May 8 Annual Town Meeting warrant which calls for a $175,000 Proposition 2 ½ override.

If the article passes at the Town Meeting, it will then have to be ratified in the form of a ballot question at the May 20 Town Election.

“We know we need $168,000 or thereabouts to do the (FY25) budget as it has been proposed,” said Selectboard Chair Bernie Malouin.

The monies provided by the override will be split between Phillipston’s assessment for the Narragansett Regional School District and various municipal operating expenses.

According to Phillipston Administrative Assistant Melanie Jackson, Narragansett’s assessment for the town will be $2.2 million, an increase of $200,983, while Monty Tech’s went up by $18,000. The proposed municipal operating budget for FY25 is $5.2 million, a $316,161 increase over FY24. The proposed state aid has only increased by 4.8%, and local receipts are down by 6.47%.

“Doing that math, clearly we are not in a position where our recurring receipts are equaling our recurring expenses,” Jackson said. “We’re at the point where we either need to make cuts or we need to go for an override just for general operating expenses.”

In the past, Jackson explained, Phillipston has asked town employees – all of whom are non-union – to forego cost of living adjustments to help balance the budget.

“It’s not fair that employees have to cut costs in their own household just to help balance the town budget,” she said.

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The Selectboard, said Jackson, has managed to trim health insurance premiums by 4.75%, as well as offer health insurance opt-outs to employees who can obtain it elsewhere.

“That’s a lot for a small town and that’s why we are having so many problems,” Jackson said. “But it’s not just the school district’s fault. They only get so much from Chapter 70 aid as well, and you can’t fault the schools for asking for what they feel they need and what they want – just as we do for our budget. But it is a lot for a small town.”

The Narragansett assessment for Templeton, the other member community, is $8.7 million, according to Town Administrator Adam Lamontagne. That represents an increase of approximately $1 million.

Lamontagne said town officials will not ask voters to approve an override to fund the increase, in part because voters are already being asked to approve a $3.7 million Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion to replace the Main Street Bridge over Otter River.

“So Templeton is not going for an override,” he said. “We have a debt exclusion the Selectboard voted to put on the warrant, as well as the ballot. That’s our top priority at the moment.”

The school district budget will, said Lamontagne, be considered as a separate article proposed by the Narragansett’s School Committee and administration.

Phillipston’s Town Meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at the former Phillipston Memorial Elementary School. The Town Election will be held May 20. The last day to register to vote in the election is May 10.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.