WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

The Tolland Board of Selectmen prepares to discuss the budget at an April 22 hearing.

Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

TOLLAND — Selectman Steve DellaGiustina doesn’t think there will be much controversy at this year’s Annual Town Meeting. In particular, the $2,274,759.86 budget, he said, was “easy,” only increasing 0.74% from the last fiscal year.

“There’s not a lot to discuss,” he said.

At an April 22 budget hearing, voters did have questions about the town’s share of the regional school budget, which decreased by $40,736 or 8.77%. DellaGiustina said this was due to a decrease from 35 to 29 students. Voters worked out, however, that the cost per student had increased.

“As far as what it’s costing per student to send to regional school, I don’t know what we were paying before we joined the region, but it was a lot more than that, so the regional school for the town of Tolland, in my own view, has worked very well,” said DellaGiustina.

Town employee salaries are increasing by $64,902.76, or 12.54%. Finance Committee member Margaret McClellan said every department received a 3% increase in pay. The town also gave stipends for Zoning Board of Appeals and School Committee members. The increase, DellaGiustina said, also takes into account an extra $5 per hour to police officers and for a seasonal worker the DPW intends to hire.

“We had to bring the salaries up to make it more competitive,” said Selectman Patrick Barrett.

Despite plans for Tolland and Granville to shift from Berkshire County’s regional dispatch center to Northampton’s dispatch, the 911 account saw an increase of $288.58 or 3%. DellaGiustina said the town is still paying Berkshire County this year. If the shift happens in the middle of the year, he said he doesn’t know if the town will receive any credit.

The reserve fund was also increased from $6,000 to $30,000, a 400% increase. Selectmen use this fund to handle unexpected costs that arise during the year without having to call a Town Meeting to amend the budget.

“We just felt we had to be covered and $6,000 wasn’t going to cover anything that was happening,” DellaGiustina said.

The budget will be voted on at Town Meeting, at 7 p.m., Monday, May 13, at the Public Safety Complex, 206 W. Granville Rd.

Also on the warrant is a question to appropriate $100,000 to repair a culvert under Route 57 at the Granville line, and to raise taxes under a debt exclusion to fund the project’s bond payments. Specifically, it allows the town to raise the tax levy over the 2.5% limit set by the state law known as Proposition 2½.

Public Works Superintendent Kate Donovan said the culvert is sagging and at risk of failing, which would cause Route 57 to collapse. This is necessary, she said, because there’s no good detour heading east from town if the road collapses.

The town’s plan is to slip line the culvert, or insert a plastic pipe into it to stabilize it and increase the stream’s water flow. This is cheaper than other repair methods and will last at least 50 years, she said. Both the town and a contractor will collaborate on the work.

The town has to use its own funds, she said, to avoid the “stream crossing standards” it would have to follow if it used grant funds.

After the meeting, McClellan said she didn’t know what the impact of the debt exclusion would have on the average residential taxpayer, as she hasn’t run the numbers with the assessor yet. She said the bond would be for three years.

The debt exclusion question is also on the town election ballot; it has to be approved both at Town Meeting by a two-thirds vote, and at the ballot box. The town election will take place 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the Public Safety Complex.

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