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Granby Town Meeting approves $14.7 million budget for next year

An operating budget of $14,658,866 for fiscal 2014 was approved during the second part of annual Town Meeting. The budget is down 1.78 percent from the $14,925,423 that was allocated for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Granby officials said that reduced state aid is responsible for the tighter budget.

Finance Committee Chairman John Libera said this is the fourth time in the past five years that Granby has faced a year-to-year decrease in state aid. Libera said the state aid for schools is decreasing by 1.71 percent, or $91,835, from 2013 to 2014. That school money accounts for more than 85 percent of Granby’s total state aid.

The town’s remaining state aid is increasing by 6.52 percent, but that represents only $55,808.

“The income required to support Granby’s current ‘way of life’ is unlikely to be available in the near future,” said Libera at the beginning of the meeting.

With the loss of state aid, the schools took center stage as Town Meeting struggled to decide how to allocate the remaining money.

The School Committee withdrew a request for $1.5 million to replace the roof at Granby Junior-Senior High School. The roof is more than 20 years old and has numerous structural problems.

School Committee Chairman Michael Quesnel said the roof would be repaired instead at an estimated cost of between $10,000 and $20,000. That should give the roof another three to five years of use, he said.

However, some Granby residents expressed frustration at the fact that more money seemed to be allocated for the purchase of trucks and equipment for the highway and police departments than for the maintenance of the school system.

“How many trucks can we buy and say to the kids, ‘You’re stuck in the schools you’re in?” Pam Mahew, a former school board member, asked to applause from the audience.

“You all have new buildings,” said Mahew, addressing various town officials. “It’s time for our kids.”

She tried to amend the town warrant to increase the supplementary funds to the school system from $96,427 to $496,427. That would have been in addition to the $8,561,315 approved for the school in the general operating budget.

Mahew’s amendment was opposed by members of both the finance and school committees.

Quesnel said that while he appreciated Mahew’s gesture, “We’ve worked extensively with the Finance Committee and Select Board to come up with $96,4267. These cuts were done very strategically.”

Libera also pointed out that taking that $400,000 out of free cash would mean there would be less money available for the school stabilization fund, money that could be used to pay for a new school in the coming years.

The town ultimately voted against the amendment and approved the initial article requesting $96,427 to supplement the school budget.

The town also approved $805,003 for the Police Department, $173,026 for the Fire Department, and $461,574 for the Highway Department, all part of the general operating budget.

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