AYER — The School Department’s need-based budget of $12 million dollars, proposed by interim Superintendent George Frost, was considerably lower at the town’s budget public hearing.
Town accountant Lisa Gabree submitted a proposed budget of $9.9 million for the schools with the Finance Committee recommending the education line be increased by an additional $24,600 to cover an estimated shortage in heating fuel.
School Committee Chairman Dan Sallet said the schools, which have underground storage tanks for fuel, had reduced the storage of oil by 30 percent over the last four years.
Selectmen Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan recommended to Gabree and town administrator Shaun Suhoski the additional money be added to the education line of the budget.
Suhoski submitted a memo to the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee requesting they reconsider the reduction in the selectmen’s office budget by $4,500 before the town of Ayer’s public hearing on April 2 regarding the fiscal year 2009 budget.
Specifically the selectmen would be losing $4,000 for clerical support and $500 in supplies.
In the memo, Suhoski said the decrease would have “negative implications to the functionality and service delivery” of his departments.
Selectman Pauline Conley did not agree with the memo and in fact was the selectman who made the motion for the reduction as recommended by the Finance Committee.
“We need, as the so-called executive board of this town, to set the example,” Conley said. “To keep the money is a disgrace.”
Suhoski said the money would be used to pay a part-time department assistant to help with the compilation of the Annual Town Report and other backlogged projects such as the 18 months worth of executive session minutes in need of being transcribed.
Though the board could not vote on the matter, because it was a public hearing and not a meeting, Sullivan agreed with the memo’s suggestion of reducing the town counsel budget by $5,000.
“If you’ve ever been in (Shaun’s) office, you’ve seen the piles of paper on his desk that are 12 to 13 inches high,” Sullivan said. “And I’m not just talking one pile. There are six to eight of them; that’s all backlog that needs to be done.”
Conley said the backlog was a result of “poor time management and organizational issues.”
“We’ve had overages in our budget for two years running. Which means we’ll have it again this year,” Conley said. “We need to set an example and give the money back. We shouldn’t have money just to spend it.”
Suhoski said having the help in his department would not only get the backlog down but also assist in making sure it doesn’t happen again.
The Board’s recommended budget for FY09 is $162,444 or an increase of $2,238 from 2008.
Another area of concern was the recommendation of the School Department’s $9.9 million budget.
The Finance Committee recommended that an additional $24,600 be added to the budget to cover an estimated shortage in heating fuel.
The suggested omnibus budget for the town would see an $1.4 million increase over last year, bringing the recommended budget to $22.1 million.