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North Adams Voters to Decide Override Question
Staff Reports,
11:35PM / Monday, June 20, 2011

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Voters will decide on Tuesday whether the city's budget will be cut by $1 million or they'll shoulder the burden to keep school programs and services in place.

The Proposition 2 1/2 override has split the city, with opponents saying they can't afford any more taxes. Proponents say the city's been undertaxed for years and is due for an increase, albeit harsh, to keep functioning.

The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for voters to decide on giving the city the authority to assess an addition $1.2 million. Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 will vote at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center; Ward 4 will vote at Greylock Elementary School.

Over the past few years, North Adams has lost more than $3 million in state aid and burned through its reserves. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been slashed from the 2012 budget, including full and part-time posts in both the city and school system. The proposed $35.5 million spending plan approved by the City Council last week is short $957,762, even though it's $300,000 less than this year's budget. 

If the override passes, it will permanently raise the levy limit to a higher benchmark from which future tax levies will be calculated. Since each year municipalities can raise another 2.5 percent from its assessed real estate and personal property, North Adams will have about another $340,000. Added to the override, the city would have the ability to raise up to $1.5 million.

Should the override be defeated, it will mean severe cuts, mostly on the already stressed city side. Because the school system is so close to state-mandated foundation level, it can only be cut by about $300,000.

Between the $15.4 million school budget and assessments to McCann Technical School ($890,000), nearly half the budget will be locked up in educational spending. A large part of the city budget is also locked into fixed costs, including $3.75 million in medical insurance, $1 million in wastewater services, a $1.3 million in debt payments and more than $2 million in pensions.

If the override goes down, the mayor will have to present the City Council with a spending plan in July.

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