PEPPERELL -- Selectman Michael Green suggested temporary cuts in the staffing budget as a possible method for closing the town's budget deficit Tuesday.
The board decided to follow selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis' suggestion to leave the issue open for discussion as specific positions open up in town government.
Green said that trying to get by without immediately filling open positions could save the town money as it attempts to close a $225,000 budget deficit.
"Our biggest expenses are our staff line items, our salaries and hourly wages. The Finance Committee has been looking at an override, and if that doesn't pass we're going to have to look at making some pretty large cuts," Green said.
He said the suggestion was a way of "looking down the road" at how the town can control its finances.
"If we lose someone, or someone leaves, can we try to get by without filling the position for a few months," Green said. "If we do go for the override and it doesn't pass, this will help soften the blow."
The town's budget deficit began in 2007 as a $2 million deficit that resulted from a combination of the recession, low growth and the town drawing from its reserves to fund the operational budget. The town has been working to close the gap ever since.
Earlier in Tuesday's meeting meeting, Town Administrator John Moak had announced that Pepperell's enrollment in Nashoba Valley Technical High School had increased by 25 students this year, which could lead to an increase in Pepperell's contribution to that school's budget.
This potential increase, along with other town expenses, could make it difficult to close the budget deficit without such a measure, Green said.
Green said the town's options for increasing revenue are limited, including a tax increase or a marketing campaign to increase moves to Pepperell for families and businesses.
"When you're expecting revenues to be short, you just try to fill in," he said.
Town Administrator John Moak said closing the budget deficit is a high priority, and could involve budget cuts.
"If we can't close this gap, something has to be done, and none of it is pretty," Moak said. "I think we do give good service and I'd like it to be better, but we also have a $225,000 deficit that can't continue," Moak said.
Selectmen will be taking hiring on a case-by-case basis and are not proposing any budget cuts at this time.
The board also received an update from Systems Administrator Martin Cadek on the IT updates he has made since starting the job eight months ago.
In that time, Cadek said he helped implement the town's new online payroll system, rewired and simplified the network at Town Hall and created a database for the Animal Control Officer to track her work.
Cadek said his next priority is updating the email system. Under the current system, emails can only be accessed from a local computer and simple tasks, such as setting an out of office message, are impossible.
"It's simple things like that add up to a wide range of issues," Cadek said.
He said he is hoping to propose a switch to Microsoft Exchange at spring's Town Meeting, which could cost about $20,000.
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