TOWNSEND-- The Board of Selectmen spent its Nov. 7 meeting deciding what to do if the Nov. 13 Proposition 2 1/2 override vote fails. Although no votes were taken, the board circled around using $22,632 from free cash to close the remaining gap still unaccounted for. The use of the free cash would be in conjunction with $271,117 in departmental budget cuts to the town.
The use of free cash funds was proposed by Town Administrator Andy Sheehan in an effort to avoid the need to close Town Hall, the library and the Senior Center one day a week; to close the buildings would result in an additional $51,640 in departmental cuts.
The use of the free cash would create a structural deficit for the town, but Sheehan described it as a "two-pronged structural deficit," saying it would allow the town the necessary time to resolve financial problems in Fiscal 14, echoing what town employees have been voicing at previous meetings.
"You use your reserves this year to buy time to come up with a long range plan to solve the problem going forward," said Sheehan.
Sheehan said he had not yet presented the proposal to the Finance Committee, but that he had spoken with members individually "who have said this is an appropriate course of action in order to get through this situation.
For the concept to work, the selectmen agreed that they would be a need to be proactive in brainstorming to resolve the deficit as soon as the beginning of Fiscal 14. At the top of the list for discussion will be reducing costs in town healthcare and trash removal. Out of the town's $16 million budget, about $5 million is discretionary, said Sheehan, and about 10 percent of that represents to cost of trash removal. Following the Nov. 14 Special Town Meeting, health care will represent about $900,000 of the discretionary budget.
Selectman Robert Plamondon said he had concerns over the effect that the proposal would have on the free cash funds, but that given the situation, he felt it was the proper action to take.
"I don't like enabling a structural deficit, if you will, but it is an unusal circumstance," he said.
In other business, the selectmen also approved a letter of commitment for the design of improvements to Route 13. Portions of the street from Dudley Road to the state line require some work to soften some of the curves and turns in the road.
"There's a bit of engineering that has to take place there," said Sheehan. "Mass Highway said if we do the engineering, they'll do the construction."
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