BY DEBORAH DOULETTE STAFF WRITER
GOSHEN - Residents at Monday's annual Town Meeting will be asked to approve the annual town operating budget and decide whether to buy a new $390,000 fire truck.
The Finance Committee has recommended a total budget of $2.02 million, an increase of 3.5 percent, or $70,504, over the current year's spending.
The annual meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at John James Memorial Hall. A special meeting will be held beforehand at 7:15 p.m. The warrants for the meetings are available on the town Web site, www.egoshen.com .
The Finance Committee's recommendation includes full support for Goshen's share of requested school budgets, including the Chesterfield/Goshen elementary school budget of $469,992, a 5.11 percent increase, and the Hampshire Regional High School assessment of $376,618, an 11.96 percent increase.
Meanwhile, the committee is recommending cuts in other areas. It reduced by $7,709 a budget request for building maintenance and cut a $43,000 request for road improvements.
"We can't keep supporting schools by drawing from the town stabilization fund every year," noted Gaye Reinhold, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, when she presented the budget at a public hearing Monday night.
"The town now needs to have the discussion about what to do with schools and with other departments," added Alison Jones, Finance Committee member.
Finance Committee decisions were made a bit easier because of better information about revenues coming from the state. "They're up $65,000 from last year," said Reinhold, and are estimated at $200,769.
The Finance Committee's recommendation omits a request for $50,000 for the fire vehicle fund. Town Meeting voters, however, will have a chance to vote on buying a new $390,000 fire truck.
Fire Chief Sue Labrie made her case for the new engine. "The case revolves around the safety of our volunteer firefighters," she said. "For our year-round population of 1,000 people, we have 18 volunteers who keep the town safe, and we have an obligation to keep them safe in turn."
"And it's about bringing the department into the modern world," noted Anthony Thomas, town moderator, who listened to Labrie's presentation.
Currently, the department uses a 1985 pumper/tanker as its main vehicle. The new engine the department is considering would have a number of advantages over its current 22-year-old one: hydraulic lifts to access tools, a compressed-air foam system to more effectively put out fires, 500 gallons more carrying capacity for water, a stronger pump, and a larger cab that could carry double the fire personnel to the scene.
It's possible, too, mentioned Labrie, that the town's fire rating - now a 9 on a scale in which 10 is the worst - could improve with the purchase of the new engine. The rating directly affects homeowner insurance rates.
The $390,000 price would be offset by $198,000 that sits in the town's fire vehicle fund; voters would need to decide how to pay for the rest. Labrie's presentation is available on the department's Web site: www.goshenmafire.com.
The selectmen added to the annual Town Meeting warrant a call for a general discussion regarding future capital purchases and improvements throughout the town.
"We need to hear from people in order to decide where the town goes from here," said Joe Dunn, acting chair of the Board of Selectmen. He continued, "we're coming to a point where we, the town, have to decide whether to put money in roads, police, or schools."
Voters will also be asked to decide other questions, among them:
* Change the annual town meeting date from the third Monday in May to the third Monday in June to better assist with setting the budgets;
* Fund a new assistant Transfer Station technician salary of $1,582;
* Adopt a Volunteer Firefighter Incentive Program;
* Accept the Zoning Review Committee's proposed one-time amnesty for seasonal dwellings to correct discrepancies with current building code (a handout will be available at Town Meeting to explain the article);
* Appropriate $11,283, to connect the heating control system for the New Hingham Elementary School;
* Appropriate $173,540 for tuition to Smith Vocational Agricultural School and $426,400 for Smith school transportation.
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
A special Town Meeting will be held 15 minutes before the annual meeting, and will include several requests:
* Transferring $6,160 to pay the balance for Hill Engineers town building survey report;
* Transferring $12,000 from the stabilization fund to pay Patriot Properties for reviewing building values and other tasks necessary to set the tax rate.