By Brett Yates
As Pittsfield officials prepare the annual budget for Town Meeting Day, they expect to use surplus monies – labeled “undesignated funds” — to pay for various capital expenditures, including a new grader for the highway department and improvements to the Town Hall, instead of raising additional taxes to cover them.
“We have almost $200,000 that we’re sitting on, and I have a problem having all that money and then going to ask the taxpayers to pay for this stuff,” Select Board chair Ann Kuendig said on Jan. 19.
A portion of this abundance appears to owe to a budgetary error that overtaxed Pittsfield residents in 2021, according to Kuendig.
“I’m horrified by what I think I’ve discovered,” Kuendig said.
In 2021, at Town Meeting, Pittsfield voters passed a budget that required $331,551.10 to be raised in municipal taxes. Five additional articles asked permission for the town to shift a total of $192,000 from “general fund surplus” into a set of reserve funds for various designated purposes, such as equipment for Pittsfield Volunteer Fire & Rescue.
These articles, which also passed, were meant to be revenue-neutral, using tax dollars that had already been collected, but the town ended up attaching a tax increase to each one. The select board didn’t notice at the time.
The 2021 town report confirms that Pittsfield raised $523,551.10 in municipal taxes that year.
“We’re going to be really careful not to do that again,” Selectman A.J. Ruben said.