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Hadley open space plan fails at Town Meeting; voters approve $100,000 for schools

But voters did approve the purchase of a new school van, a tractor and allocated $100,000 to help the schools fill a budget shortfall.

A majority of voters did support the open space bylaw, which would have given landowners the option of preserving half their land as open space while developing the other half. Yet with only 54 percent of voters in favor, the measure fell far short of the two-thirds threshold needed to pass.

Alan Eccleston, chair of the Long Range Planning Implementation Committee, which spearheaded the proposal, said Thursday’s rejection was the second time the plan failed.

“Unless there is a shift in understanding there is no reason to bring it back up,” Eccleston said.

Voters also approved a $100,000 transfer from free cash, the town’s surplus revenue from the preceding fiscal year, to help cover a shortfall in the school budget.

School Committee members had initially sought $200,000 in free cash to help cover gaps in a $5.8 school budget. The town appropriated $5.6 million for the schools at Town Meeting in the spring.

Robie Grant, School Committee chair, said the board was satisfied with the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

“We’ve had some increases in special education costs,” Grant said. “Hopefully it means we won’t have to take as much out of reserves” to cover the shortfall.

The school district will use an additional $100,000 in school choice reserves, the money generated by students from outside Hadley attending town schools, to make up the difference. Board members have expressed fears that the town is spending school choice reserves at an amount that exceeds what Hadley receives annually in school choice payments. They had sought the $200,000 in free cash to avoid drawing down school choice reserves further.

In other business, voters approved the purchase of a $75,000 wheelchair van for the schools and a $55,000 tractor that the public works department will use for mowing, including work on the West Street Common. They passed over a $60,000 pickup truck, leaving it to be considered at annual Town Meeting in the spring.

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