Hadley can fund 3 firefighters without override

  • In this 2015 still image taken from a helmet-mounted video camera, Lt. Jeff Kristek, training officer for the Hadley Fire Department, participates in a training session. The department may soon get an additional three full-time firefighters. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, September 28, 2017

HADLEY — Adding three full-time firefighters to the Hadley Fire Department can be done without a general Proposition 2½ override.

After revisions to the budget over several days, the Select Board last week, by a 4-1 vote, agreed to a plan that will avoid putting a $270,000 override to voters Nov. 14. The plan will be presented to residents at a special Town Meeting Oct. 5.

“Careful review of the budget, removing one-time costs and using reserves a little more than expected, leaves us with a $541 surplus,” Town Administrator David Nixon said.

The budget still includes the additional $80,000 needed to pay the salaries of the firefighters for the final six months of fiscal 2018 that begins Jan. 1. This will bring the department’s staffing to six firefighters.

Select Board member Donald Pipczynski, the lone member to vote against the spending plan, argued that without a general override, the town is risking significant cuts and possible layoffs for departments in the fiscal 2019 budget.

“I’m much more comfortable funding them for the full year as part of the (tax) levy,” Pipczynski said.

While Chairwoman Molly Keegan agreed there may be risks in not bringing an override to voters, she said it may make more sense to have a focused conversation about municipal spending before annual Town Meeting.

This conversation, Keegan said, could include looking at a split tax rate, in which commercial properties would pay at a higher rate, as well as examining the types of exemptions that could reduce the tax burden on people who are struggling to make ends meet.

The Oct. 5 special Town Meeting was initially set so the override could be included on the same Nov. 14 ballot in which voters will decide whether to approve the money needed for the $8.27 million library and $7.1 million senior center projects.

Both those buildings were already supported by residents at an Aug. 29 special Town Meeting, but voters still must pass a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.