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TOWNSEND — Now that town meeting is over, and the voters accepted a $15 million balanced budget for fiscal year 2007, Town Administrator Gregory Barnes said hard work lies ahead for 2008.

”I have said all along we have had a structural deficit, and this year’s budget did nothing to alleviate that,” Barnes began.

Barnes explained that fiscal year 2007 starts on July 1 and that fiscal year 2008 budget work will begin then.

”We are very likely to have a true, real deficit for next year, and we are going to have some very difficult decisions to make for fiscal 2008 and beyond,” Barnes said. “When we talk about raising revenues, there are many people opposed to doing that. When we talk about cuts, there are many opposed to that as well. The only way to make things happen is with one or the other of these, or a combination of both.”

One thing that has been put into place, to start dealing with the deficit facing the town, is a Sustainability Task Force, approved by selectmen at Barnes’ request.

”They will be appointed very soon, and one focus they will have to is build a political consensus,” Barnes explained. “The task force will scrutinize the entire system and see where we can do better with raising revenues. All recommendations will be made to the selectmen. It is a place to start looking closely at how we can improve our financial climate.”

Barnes said one aspect that the town has in its favor is there has been no overspending on items and the budget lines are still in the black.

”We do have money in the bank and we are not running in the red like some other communities,” he said. “But I am saying the upcoming year will not be a pretty process to keep us that way.”

Barnes lauded the Finance Committee for their diligence and hard work in making the budget balance out for this year.

”We have to be in control of our own financial destiny,” the administrator said. “The FinCom worked extremely hard to get the budget done and they scrutinize each and every line. They looked at the wish lists the departments had submitted. They got to the bottom line, and did a great job.”

Barnes said cutting hours at Memorial Hall and having all departments become more energy conscious are good places to start cutting expenses.

”Energy costs are through the roof, and it is not just us that is facing that; it’s everywhere,” Barnes said. “We have to start with dealing with that expense. It is one we cannot avoid, but we can control better.”

Barnes is looking forward to the task force beginning its work, then see where things go from there.

”They will be the watchdogs and see where we can do better,” he concluded.

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