NORTHFIELD – The Selectboard has finalized the warrant for the annual town meeting asking voters to approve a $ 8.7 million budget, purchase new radios and equipment for fire and rescue services, and approve three taxes that would generate revenue for the city.
The annual city get-together takes place on Monday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m. in the high school of the Pioneer Valley Regional School. The Selectboard approved and signed the warrant on April 12 after holding meetings with the finance committee to discuss the warrant’s articles and departmental budget figures.
“The finance committee has worked very hard and tried to meet all requirements,” said city administrator Andrea Llamas during the discussion with the Selectboard.
The fifth article on the warrant relates to the city’s $ 8.7 million omnibus budget. This includes $ 712,704 in city government salaries and expenses; $ 651,041 for public safety departments; over $ 1.1 million in public works and facilities; $ 146,595 for health and personal services; $ 235,096 for culture, recreation, and other expenses; and $ 615,280 for insurance and retirement. The $ 8.7 million also includes over $ 5.2 million for education costs.
Lamas noticed some items towards the end of the warrant that could generate revenue for the city. Article 35 calls on voters to impose a 3 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana or marijuana products. Lamas said there are currently no plans for retail marijuana stores to come to the city, but city officials hope to approve such an article in case the city is approached by a marijuana company in the future.
Article 34 calls on voters to approve a 0.75 percent sales tax on the sale of food and drink from restaurants originating in the city. Lamas and Selectboard member Barbara “Bee” Jacque noted that the Finance Committee neither supports nor opposes Article 34. The members stated that they want to leave Article 34 for deliberation in the city entirely. Other cities, including Sunderland, Greenfield, Whately and Bernardston, have already passed this 0.75 percent sales tax by votes at the annual general meeting. The 0.75 percent that would flow directly into the city is added to the state sales tax of 6.25 percent, which corresponds to a tax amount of 7 percent.
Article 36 calls on voters to waive a 6 percent “local occupancy excise tax” for short-term rentals under 90 days per year, but clarifies that no tax will be levied if the total rental amount is less than $ 15 . Lamas stated this would apply to hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs. Regular monthly rental contracts for apartments or houses are not considered “short term” and would not be affected.
“When you rent a place month after month, an apartment, it is not a short-term rental,” Llamas said. “This is definitely what they call short term rentals, like bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels and the like. If you have a rental property that you rent from Airbnb, it is a short term rental. If you rent an apartment or have a two-family house and rent part of it, it does not affect it. ”
During the discussion of the Selectboard, Jacque inquired about Article 33, which asks voters to authorize the Selectboard to enter into an agreement on the payment of taxes in lieu of taxes (PILOT) or other enabling legislation for taxes along three proposed solar panels Pine Meadow accounts for the road. Jacque noted that these arrays are still under review in an ongoing public hearing with the planning authority. Lamas noted that this article is included because the warrant had to be approved three weeks prior to the city meeting date. If the planning board does not approve the solar project, the item will be handed over.
“If something isn’t approved, don’t negotiate, but we must file (the warrant article) at this point because if (the three proposed solar panels) are approved, or one of them, you want the ability to negotiate immediately ( Payment) ”, explained Llamas.
Also noteworthy are Articles 11 and 12, which ask voters to allocate money to purchase new radios and related equipment for fire and rescue services. This new equipment will bring the city in line with a statewide change to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Interoperable Radio System (CoMIRS).
Other articles that could be of interest to city voters and spark debate relate to the Schell Bridge rebuilding project, Llamas said. Article 31 requires the city to authorize the Selectboard to acquire easements for certain lots along East Northfield Road. This is required by law to finalize plans for a small park and parking lot near the bridge area. Meanwhile, Article 32 calls on the city to approve funding to pay for the right of way costs and agreements with the state. While the warrant does not include a dollar amount, Llamas said the city is expected to have a cost on this and other items by the May 3 meeting.
To view the full warrant for the annual town meeting, visit bit.ly/2Qq2Fam.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4579.