PEPPERELL -- Officials are close to finalizing budget proposals that will go before voters at annual Town Meeting, including a request for an override of more than $1 million.
In a joint meeting Thursday, selectmen and the Finance Committee made final adjustments to two budgets they will present to Town Meeting on May 5.
The first is a balanced budget, which would require a 5 percent cut to most departments' operating budgets. Officials will also present a supplemental budget that allows for a 1.5 percent increase from fiscal 2014 based on a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
The Finance Committee and selectmen have both voted in support of an override of at least $1 million to combat a growing budget deficit and establish a capital plan to pay for large equipment purchases and necessary maintenance.
Although they did not settle on the amount of the override, they agreed it needed to be more than $1 million to allow for infrastructure improvements outside the operating budget over the next five years.
"In all of the surrounding towns, we have the lowest tax levy. Even with a $1.2 million override, we're still going to be by far the lowest tax levy," said Melissa Tzanoudakis, chairman of the Finance Committee. "So at the end of the day we have room to grow without becoming excessive in how we grow."
The town is required to present the balanced budget, even though the Finance Committee doesn't recommend it, Tzanoudakis said.
The balanced budget, which would lead to reduced hours and some layoffs, is for $20.7 million.
If the override passes, it would allow about $500,000 in fiscal 2015 to begin to fund a capital plan.
"If we can get an override this year for down the road, we're taking care of a few things this year and then we can start to plan," Town Administrator John Moak said.
Selectmen are expected to vote on the amount of the recommended override at their meeting April 14, when they approve the warrant articles for Town Meeting.
Tzanoudakis said the Finance Committee has chosen not to recommend the proposed budget for the Nashoba Valley Technical High School.
Under the budget approved by the Nashoba Valley Technical School Committee for fiscal 2015, Pepperell's share of the budget increased by 22 percent from fiscal 2014.
Much of the NVTHS increase was due to an increase in Pepperell's minimum contribution based on the town's growing student population. But the district has asked Pepperell for an additional $274,000 over its minimum contribution, which Tzanoudakis said she can't support.
"At the end of the day I don't know how we can ask the residents to pay that kind of an increase for one department when we're holding everybody else on such a tight rein," Tzanoudakis said.
The district's overall budget increased by 5 percent, to $12.4 million. Five of the eight member towns for the district would have to approve the budget for it to pass.
"I think it sends the wrong message to allow such a grossly excessive increase beyond our minimum assessment change when we're really trying to hold fast with all our other departments," she said.