PEPPERELL -- Officials are considering offering incentives for early retirement to some employees to save money as the town considers budget cuts.
Town Administrator John Moak told the Finance Committee Thursday night that two department heads suggested the measure to him as a way to avoid laying off employees if a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote fails.
"The cuts that we've asked the departments to make, for these particular departments, this would be one way in which they'd address it without losing significant manpower," said Finance Committee Chairwoman Melissa Tzanoudakis.
Moak said the proposal was very preliminary, but he will discuss it with the town's attorney in the coming days.
The savings from not having to pay unemployment, Moak said, could be tens of thousands of dollars.
"If we're not paying unemployment for anything other than possibly police, that is more than enough to cover what we'd anticipate for unemployment and also what those buyouts would be," Moak said.
Layoffs had been raised as a possibility by heads of the Police and Highway departments if a vote for a $1 million override fails, necessitating the departments to cut their budgets by about 5 percent.
The proposed override, if it passes, would allow most departments to raise their budgets by about 1.5 percent, counter a growing structural deficit and begin to develop a capital plan to address equipment and infrastructure needs in town.
The committee is also considering the possibility of not cutting the budget for the ambulance department due to an anticipated increase in revenue next year.
Tzanoudakis said the addition of a new immediate-care facility by Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, which is planning to open in October, could cause an increase in work for the town's ambulance department. The ambulance department usually brings in enough revenue to pay for its budget, Tzanoudakis said.
"With the new medical center coming in, there's the anticipation of an increase in ambulance calls due to the services provided by the medical center. The question is how much and can we reasonably project an increase in revenues to offset a cut in the ambulance budget?" Tzanoudakis said.
At next Thursday's meeting, the committee will discuss the projections with the head of the ambulance department, Fire-EMS Chief Toby Tyler, to determine whether to change the budget proposal.
The Finance Committee also approved a transfer request for $7,850 from the reserve fund to the Charter Commission.
The commission will use the money to mail copies of the proposed charter document to each household in town with a registered voter. Residents will vote on whether to adopt the charter at the town's April 28 election.
Clerk of the Charter Commission Lisa Ferolito said the documents must be sent to households by April 14.
Ferolito said the request was slightly higher than the quote the commission received to account for any uptick in registered voters between now and the registration deadline on April 8.
"If there's anything left over, we're happy to give it back," Ferolito said.
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