PEPPERELL - Voters passed a $1.1 million Proposition 2 1/2 override at Annual Town Meeting Monday night that would address a structural deficit, provide for formation of a capital plan and avoid major cuts to the town's operational budget.
The override vote is now subject to approval of a ballot election June 16 to go into effect.
If the ballot vote passes, the town's total budget for fiscal 2015 will be $26,171,198, compared to $24,418,463 last year. The override would result in an increase of taxes by $147 per $100,000 valuation.
If the override fails, Finance Committee Chairman Melissa Tzanoudakis said the results would be a loss of two police officers, one Highway Department employee and one Communications Department employee, as well as reduced services and hours at Town Hall, the Lawrence Library and the Senior Center.
The cuts would also result in a loss of funding for Summer Playground and Memorial Day, as well as a lack of funding to address infrastructure repair and maintenance, Tzanoudakis said.
The override will allow town departments to increase their budgets slightly, by about 1.5 percent. It would also provide funding for a capital plan, which would allow the town to fund large equipment purchases that are not provided for by the operational budget.
Tzanoudakis said that this would help prevent problems like the public-safety complex, for which the town has appropriated $225,000 this year to address a mold problem.
"The budgets have been cut so bare bones to our department heads that they can't even do minor repairs in their own departments," Tzanoudakis said.
Tzanoudakis said that between the override vote, the approval of construction for a new high school and Pepperell's relatively low taxes compared to surrounding communities, Pepperell has the chance to attract more residents to town.
"We have the ability to take advantage of a very unique set of circumstances where we can attract people to our town," she said.
Resident Mark Camp spoke in favor of the override, saying that major increases in the school budgets over time alongside stagnating budgets for the operational budget were unsustainable.
"If we're going to keep supporting increased spending on schools, and I voted for that, voted for the high school, we've got to take care of the rest of town government too," Camp said.
Resident Phil Durno said the override was necessary to keep the town strong.
"You need your schools, you need your education, but you've got to support your town," Durno said.
A $1,412,198 assessment for Nashoba Valley Technical High School also passed, despite the Finance Committee speaking out against it.
The committee said Nashoba Tech's 5 percent budget increase, and a 22 percent increase in Pepperell's assessment, was too high, outpacing the growth of other town departments.
Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz said that the majority of the increase was due to Pepperell's growing student population, which has increased from 116 to 140, a 20.6 percent jump.
Voters also tabled a citizen's petition to rezone a section of Hollis Street from residential to commercial until tomorrow night following a lengthy discussion. The motion covered 17 parcels, five of which are already home to businesses.
Supporters claimed the rezoning would bring necessary business revenue into town.
Opponents said they were concerned about traffic, the close proximity to Varnum Brook Elementary School and Nissitissit Middle School and property being rezoned against the wishes of homeowners.
Town Meeting will reconvene tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Nissitissit Middle School.
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