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Westhampton Town Meeting approves $4.82 million budget

“We are pleased with the budget,” Hampshire Regional School Superintendent Craig Jurgensen said. “Westhampton has always been very supportive of the schools and we appreciate that.”

Hampshire Regional High School Principal Laurie Hodgdon, along with members of the school committee, said the approved budget would support programs necessary for a broad and creative education for students.

“This is a number that will allow our school to remain competitive. We will be able to add a language teacher, have more hours for our guidance counselor, and get an additional school nurse,” said Karl Norris of the Hampshire Regional School Committee.

Voters also approved $35,000 for a new compressed air foam system for the fire department, $10,000 for repairs to the Town Hall porch, and $50,000 toward an estimated $74,000 repair job for the Westhampton Elementary School parking lot.

“Both the Finance and Capital Planning Committee agreed that $50,000 be used from free cash and the rest would be paid through available school funds,” Selectman John F. Shaw Jr. said. “If they can’t come up with the remaining costs, the project probably won’t get done.”

This year voters also saw the unveiling of the town’s first formal capital plan. In an effort to enhance financial planning, the Capital Planning Committee introduced the creation of a five-year plan that would help the town identify and prioritize expenditures.

“We need to pay more attention to what may be coming up in the next five years and give those items real numbers that we can work with,” Shaw said.

In addition, voters gave the Select Board the authority to enter into renewable energy agreements for terms of more than three years. Westhampton is currently reviewing proposals from three solar companies to construct photovoltaic arrays at the town’s municipal landfill, Hampshire Regional High School and the Westhampton Elementary School.

The Town Meeting drew roughly 70 of the town’s 1,254 voters. Shaw said he was quite disappointed with the number of empty seats at the meeting.

“We used to get at least 100 at Town Meeting. This is a pretty poor turnout for a town meeting to approve a $5 million budget,” Shaw said. “This is where it happens, this is where people have the opportunity to decide how their money is going to be spent.”

Before the meeting adjourned, those assembled gave a standing ovation to Administrative Assistant, Treasurer and Accounting Officer Margaret Parsons, who will be retiring in September after serving the town for 40 years.

“Margy always has the answers or can get them for you. I am going to miss her skills and I personally know that I am a better person having worked with her,” Selectman Brian Mulvehill said.

Mulvehill himself was recognized for his nine years of service on the Select Board, as he will not be seeking re-election to that board.

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