GROTON -- Selectmen met in joint session with the Finance Committee Monday to review the warrant for spring town meeting scheduled for April 28.

Topping the agenda will be the budget which, if all the pieces fall into place, will come to $32,025,074 or a 5.5 percent increase from 2014.

The reason for the sharp rise in spending is the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, whose books were discovered to be out of balance by $2.7 million for fiscal 2015. Cuts in school spending reduced that number leaving Groton with $1.4 million as its share of the money needed to make up the difference.

Should Dunstable approve raising the money for its own share of the shortfall amount, and the proposed budget for Groton is approved by voters, the tax rate for property owners would rise an average of $18.41 per $1,000 in valuation or $412 annually.

In addition to the regular budget, the warrant will also ask voters to approve one-time spending such as $280,000 for a replacement ambulance for the Fire Department; $50,000 for a replacement forestry truck for the Fire Department; $35,000 for a replacement pick-up truck for the DPW; $40,000 to bolster the town's information technology infrastructure; $30,000 to

update the alarm system in town buildings; $43,690 for HVAC upgrades needed by the library; $120,000 for the purchase of three police cruisers; and $10,200 for a rough mower, $20,000 for golf carts, and $6,500 for a boom sprayer by the Pool & Golf Center.


Other articles on the warrant deal with the disposal of public buildings including the former Prescott School for which selectmen will seek authorization to rent or sell to interested developers.

Already, said Haddad, the town has received two responses to recently issued RFPs (Requests for Proposal) for the property including one that could see $1.7 million invested to renovate the building while leaving the old schoolyard available to the town for the creation of a 60-space parking lot.

Eager to explore the proposal, board members agreed to establish a committee to review the offer.

Meanwhile, a number of proposals has been received for purchase of the old Center Fire Station. There, Haddad reported interest in developing the building into a mixed-use site with residential space on the second floor and a small business on the first.

Town meeting will be asked once again to approve a concept plan for the disused Squannacook Hall in West Groton that proposes to convert the historic building into residential units. In two other articles, residents will be asked to approve repair of the hall's septic system at a cost of $30,000 and to authorize selectmen to sell or lease the property.

Other warrant articles include:

* Appropriation of $10,000 to cover the cost of updating personal property values in town in accordance with state law. The law covers mostly commercial property and businesses.

* Appropriation of $9,000 to install automatic door openers at the library.

* Authorization for the Nashoba Valley Technical School to borrow $2.8 million for a roof repair project.

* Appropriation from CPC funds (Community Preservation Committee) to pay for restoration of historic mile-stones around town, transfer of funds to the Conservation Fund, Sargisson Beach restoration, repair of the driving range at the Pool & Golf Center and increased hours for the housing coordinator.

* Appropriation of $486,475 for continued payment on the debt for Surrenden Farms.

Selectmen also voted jointly with Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee members to appoint Kristian Gentile to the Nashoba Valley Technical School Committee to complete the unexpired term of former Groton representative Kevin McCarthy. Gentile will serve until 2015 when she must run for the office in her own right if she chooses to stay.

The board also voted to ratify the appointment of Groton Electric Light Department manager Kevin Kelly, town planner Michelle Collette and conservation administrator Takashi Tada as members of a new Energy Committee.