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Daily Hampshire Gazette – Belchertown voters will consider a $61.6 million budget at Monday’s annual town meeting that will lay off 14 school staff

Daily Hampshire Gazette – Belchertown voters will consider a .6 million budget at Monday’s annual town meeting that will lay off 14 school staff

Belchertown will hold its annual town meeting Monday at Belchertown High School.

Belchertown will hold its annual town meeting Monday at Belchertown High School.
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

BELCHERTOWN — Town Meeting voters will consider codifying the new town manager position, allowing two public roads, adding regulations for installing battery storage systems and approving a contested school budget that will cut 14 people, including 10 teaching positions.

The 40-item mandate presented at Monday’s meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Belchertown High School, includes a budget of approximately $61.6 million for fiscal year 2025, an increase of $1,314,505 , or 2.18%, compared to last year. A special town meeting will begin 30 minutes before the regular town meeting, during which residents will consider four items dealing with unpaid expenses from the current year.

School budget

The school’s budget is about half of the total allocated amount, $33.1 million, which is $587,533 more than last year. The school committee initially requested a leveled budget of $34.4 million, but the city presented the committee with a figure $1.3 million lower than the school committee’s request.

As a result, 14 positions will be eliminated next year. According to the school committee’s April 7 budget presentation, Belchertown High School will lose two teachers, a paraprofessional and a custodian. Six teachers from Jabish Brook Middle School will not return, along with one teacher from Chestnut Hill Community School and Swift River Elementary School. Four paraeducators and a clerk in the Cold Springs school’s central office are also laid off.

Residents will vote to increase fines for leash law violations and for vicious or disturbing dogs. Increased fees for dog licenses, business registrations and copies of records will also be considered.

Other articles

The investment budget proposed in the mandate includes $187,681 for equipment and renovations. Purchases include several mowers; an automobile elevator; new windows and HVAC system for Finnery House; new doors for the fire station, senior center and recreational building; and renovations to the fire station’s living quarters.

In addition to the capital and operating budget, residents will vote on four other expenditures, the largest of which is $68,000 in financial support for the Belchertown Community Canal. The money will be used to finance the position of director and the new equipment necessary for the operation of the channel.

Amendments to the statutes

The longest article of the term codifies the title and duties of the city manager into Belchertown laws. In addition to the duties of municipal administrator, the city manager will be the personnel director of the municipality and will delegate the salaries and classifications of each state employee. The position will also handle union grievances and sick leave.

Three zoning bylaw amendments are on the mandate, two of which relax space restrictions on accessory dwelling units and residential zones. Both regulations allow the development of larger percentages of a parcel of land. Medium density residential developments can cover 40%, instead of 20%, of a plot. Accessory dwelling units could use up to two bedrooms with a size limit of 45% of the square footage of the home.

Residents will also discuss adopting a zoning bylaw to allow battery storage systems, whether integrated or stand-alone, in the city. Battery storage systems are used to store and save energy generated by solar or wind power, and appear in both small commercial and residential systems, as well as larger systems larger than 10 megawatts.

Integrated battery systems used in residential and small commercial renewable energy systems would require a building permit issued by the building inspector. Larger developments will be subject to a site review process similar to that required for most city developments, including technical reviews by the Fire Department, Board of Health, Department of Public Works and an engineering company.

New roads and public lands

Two city roads could become city-regulated public thoroughfares, helping to increase Chapter 90 funds by adding more miles to the city’s jurisdiction. If adopted, Meadow Pond Road, just off Ware Road, and the upper portion of Jasons Way will remain as built but simply become part of the city’s roads.

Industrial Road is a short cul-de-sac to the left of the Carriage Road roundabout that connects to the Belchertown State School business development area. All three roads were previously approved subdivisions whose development had been completed and must now be adopted as public roads in the city.

The city is also proposing to purchase 94 acres off State Street to expand open space and recreational areas. The total cost of the area, located next to Foley Field, is $160,501 and is expected to be funded through grants.

Emilee Klein can be contacted at [email protected].