Hadley Select Board recommends full-time fire chief
HADLEY — The Select Board delayed voting on a budget recommendation Wednesday, but after a night of pinching pennies, it narrowed the budget gap from $800,000 to $32,000.
The board chose to recommend a new full-time fire chief in addition to the full-time fire captain that the town already has, rejecting Town Administrator David Nixon’s proposal to adopt a budget with money for an interim chief and no captain.
The board, which did not take any votes on the budget recommendations but did come to a consensus on many cuts, plans to make the greatest dent in the annual budget by removing capital requests from departmental budgets. Instead, the board will seek funding for those purchases separately at Town Meeting on May 2.
Selectman Brian West suggested that capital purchases that Town Meeting supports could be funded by a single loan that would be paid off with meals taxes and interest income from the town’s stabilization fund. West said that now is the time to borrow because interest rates are low.
In addition to making reductions, the budget will be balanced by increasing revenue by more than half a million dollars. Some of the increased revenue will come from estimates that have been revised upwards. However, much of it will come from increased reliance on one-time monies that are not normally used to balance annual budgets.
The Select Board plans to use $509,805 in so-called “free cash” — which comes from a combination of sources, including the settlement of a lawsuit over mismanagement of dike repairs — in order to balance the budget.
In a letter to the board, Nixon said that the practice of balancing the budget with free cash is against town policy, but he recommends doing so in this instance because the school budget increased significantly more this year than it is expected to in the future.
School committee members have said that the budget is increasing significantly this year because the schools are playing catch-up and reducing their reliance on school choice money.
The Select Board expects to vote during its April 3 meeting on a budget to recommend to Town Meeting.
Overtime pay for the police and fire departments was reduced because both departments will hire new staff that the board anticipates would require less overtime.
The Select Board still has $32,000 to cut from the budget, which it indicated is likely to come from either additional reductions to police department overtime or from the funding for part-time police, which is currently significantly higher than the department has needed in the past.