Thursday, December 19, 2013
2013 Town Meetings
By Paul Koenig email@example.com
JEFFERSON — Residents will vote on two unrelated issues Tuesday night: approval of the school budget that will appear on the June ballot and whether to take ownership of Clary Lake dam, a source of much contention.
The annual Town Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Jefferson Village School gymnasium.
The $5,137,521 proposed budget for kindergarten-through-grade 12 education will request $3,412,474 in town money.
Reduced state funding caused the local contribution to rise by $216,000, which is 6.7 percent higher the year before, despite the overall budget going down by $91,000, according to Robert Westrich, chairman of the School Committee.
He said the increase represents a tax increase of $62 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Residents will be able to discuss and vote on individual budget items at Tuesday night's meeting. The budget approved at the meeting then will be put to secret-ballot vote on June 4.
Unlike in previous years, the Budget and School committees agreed on all of the budget items, Westrich said.
"We did what the state and federal government is not doing," Westrich said. "We talked to one another, and we worked together to get to a budget that we thought the town could afford."
He said proposed cuts to the budget include the elimination of a part-time guidance counselor and a part-time teacher of gifted and talented students.
Westrich said the instruction gap will be covered by other teachers certified for gifted and talented students. The part-time guidance councilor duties will be taken over by a social worker and the principal, he said.
Westrich said he expects the proposed budget will be approved Tuesday night, but the question is whether residents who go to the polls in June will sign off on it.
"Of course, there are a lot of things in the Legislature that could have an impact on us," Westrich said. "We always run the risk of having curtailments, like we did this year; so we're always cautious about our budget, not padding it, but hoping things work out."
The status of the other issue on the meeting agenda — the ownership of Clary Lake dam — might be even less certain than the state budget.
Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, owner of the Whitefield dam, filed a petition last month with the state Department of Environmental Protection to release ownership of the century-old dam.
The process of releasing ownership includes consulting with various local and state stakeholders to see whether another owner can be found.
The dam owner and the lake association also are involved in an ongoing DEP water-level petition for Clary Lake.
State law requires towns around the lake to hold a town meeting to vote on the issue within 60 days of a dam ownership-release petition being filed.
Jefferson and Whitefield must hold meetings by the end of May, but the department has yet to accept the petition.
The petition came under review after Paul Kelley, the manager of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, had to submit additional ownership evidence showing his company access to the dam and flowage rights.
Hydropower coordinator for the DEP, Kathy Howatt, said she's reviewing the additional clarifications Kelley submitted last week.
Whitefield plans to hold its meeting May 30, so that meeting could be canceled if the department decides to not accept the position before the end of the month.
Jefferson Town Clerk Lynne Barnikow said she's not sure how the residents would feel about the idea of owning the dam.
"We have no feelings on it whatsoever because we just don't have enough information as far as where it stands with DEP," she said.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663