If the town’s proposed FY22 budget gets a green light at the Annual Town Meeting, town property will see the lowest property tax increase since 2014.

The meeting is set for Monday, Jun. 7 and, if necessary, Jun. 10, at 6 p.m. both nights, at Monument Mountain Regional High School. This is a drive-in, socially distanced meeting similar to last year’s outdoor event.

"If voters come to the meeting well prepared and familiar with the town meeting warrant, as they have in the past, we could complete our business meeting in one night," said Selectboard Chair Stephen Bannon. "We had good public participation this year in budget hearings and look forward to an efficient town meeting."

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The FY22 proposed budget of approximately $35 million reflects a property tax rate increase of 1.4 percent, 23 cents over the 2021 rate, the lowest increase since 2014. The new rate of $16.22 per $1,000 of property valuation means a residential property tax bill (for a house valued at $300,000) would rise from $4,797 this year to $4,866 next year, or $69.00.

This tax projection takes into account several capital expenditures next year, including proposed construction of a new public parking lot downtown for $1.2 million. New public restrooms are also being proposed for Town Hall, at an expected cost of $100,000.

A combination of free cash, cannabis store revenues and a modest capital improvement plan will offset spending and hold down property taxes.

“It has been a difficult year for so many residents of our town, and we are fortunate to have various resources to reduce our taxation requirements in the coming year,” said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski.

The town routinely receives other revenue from state aid, sewer user fees, and local receipts, including motor vehicle excise and meal and room occupancy taxes.

In FY21, the town collected $1,426,341 in local option tax revenue from cannabis sales in Great Barrington, and another $1,527,766 in community impact fees from cannabis retailers.

Next year, the town will also use approximately $3,525,000 [in free cash] to offset tax increases.

Town operations will cost $12.9 million, up 5.8% over the current year. The town’s share of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District budget will cost $18.4 million, up by about 5 percent over FY2021.

Highlights of next year’s key operating costs include:

  • $9,308 for the Claire Teague Senior Center to support its new town-based transportation program for seniors.
  • $110,090 for the town DPW/Highway Department, for equipment maintenance and repairs.
  • $117,314 in new funds for the Police Department’s community outreach staffing, education and tuition reimbursement.
  • $337,852 in fixed cost increases such as debt payments, Medicare, and employee health and retirement contributions.

Additional expenditures for FY22 include $2.48 million for:

  • Equipment purchases and street improvements.
  • A police station generator.
  • $65,000 for environmental cleanup of the former Ried Cleaners property on Main Street.

Other capital spending includes:

  • $119,030 for police radios, a new cruiser and laptops/tablets, and a new speed trailer.
  • $40,000 for park improvements.
  • $405,000 in wastewater treatment plant improvements

The Selectboard has adopted a neutral position on the parking lot plan, preferring instead to let town voters decide.

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