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Longtime Burlington, Vt. Mayor Miro Weinberger will not seek re-election

Outgoing New Marlborough select board chair discusses town meeting approval of $6.5M budget, looming financial concerns

The Old Inn on the Green, New Marlborough, Massachusetts.
John Phelan
The Old Inn on the Green, New Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Mark Carson is the chair of the New Marlborough, Massachusetts select board. This month marks the end of his three-year run heading the elected body that represents the rural Southern Berkshire community of around 1,500. Monday night, residents approved a 33-article warrant at the annual town meeting. It included a fiscal year 2024 budget of around $6.5 million, more than 4% higher than last year’s. Carson spoke with WAMC about some of the budget’s major provisions, as well as why he’s leaving office concerned about New Marlborough’s finances moving ahead.

CARSON: We were purchasing a lot of equipment and stuff that needs to be replaced every 10 years, and the prices of everything have more than doubled or tripled since the 10 years was. So, when you buy a truck for $80,000, now you're paying $200,000. It's challenging and people are concerned about their taxes, and rightfully so. So, this has been one of the challenges with taxes on vehicles, I mean taxes in the town, and purchasing equipment, the cost of it becomes very financially burdening for the taxpayers because of the cost. And, surprisingly, it just doesn't seem to slow down at all. So, I don't know where this is all going to end up another 10 or 15 years down the road, where same things you're purchasing are going to be that much more. So, I’m concerned about that, because your income doesn't go up that fast. So, those are the types of things I think that gives the select board challenges and the town's taxation.

WAMC: So, with that in mind, what exactly was the change like in spending from last year to this year, and how did town members react to those increased costs?

Oh, they were concerned, no doubt. And I was concerned, because I didn't like seeing what I saw. Even though we purchased a lot of equipment and moved money within the town’s, we call it their free cash or stabilization, to try to keep the- We have this basic savings account that we're always contributing $150,000 or $200,000 a year. And so, we can make these big purchases, but we're just finding out that we got to keep, obviously, spending more money to accomplish the same thing. So, that's basically it in a nutshell as far as the increases, and obviously, the town taxpayers are concerned about it. And they see these increases across the board, from the school budget to our capital gain projects, and our operating costs, and keeping people employed in town because other towns are competing for our employees. So, it seems to be we’re- It’s a lot of angles to cover, so.

When you think about the long-term solution to some of these questions – I mean, clearly you sound concerned – what do you think the town has to do to shore up its finances moving forward?

Unless you can put a slow down on the cost of purchasing- These purchases of vehicles and machinery and the budgets and the insurance costs, they all contribute a large part of our budget and plus, the retirement costs and things of that nature. Half the people in this town don't have the benefits like the town's employees. But, you know, these aren't easy jobs, either. So, you got to take a lot of education. There's a lot to it. I understand the state's point of view in trying to keep towns’ boards, you know, with all these regulations, but they really, they overwhelm us. We have to know so much with what the state requires us to know, and it's basically a volunteered situation. The select board only makes like three grand a year, each person. So, it's a lot of time and a lot of training involved. I've been on boards for many years, but this is the first three-year hitch I ever had with the select board. So, it was more challenging, even though I had a lot of experience in other areas in the town, it just, I never realized how much. And like I said, going forward, it's hard to get people to even want to be on these boards. So, then that's become much harder to do. It's almost a full-time job. And it shouldn't be, but the state requires you to know a lot, so.

What do you feel like you've learned about New Marlborough from three years on the select board?

Well, everything's a long-term project. You know, I've been working on projects for nine to 10 years, and I'm starting to see them appear now. So, your three years is only like skip in the lake with a rock. You only make a couple splashes. And you have to stay on these sports for a long period of time to really see success and carry it to the end.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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