Skip to content




TOWNSEND — With Annual Town Meeting less than a month away, the town budget is far from finished.

Worse, according to town administrator Gregory Barnes, even the smallest expense or savings could keep the town within the limits of any new revenue expected in the coming year, or force an override.

The Board of Selectmen met last Monday night to review 26 warrant articles and at least three articles proposed for an accompanying Special Town Meeting covering a range of fiscal matters, including the fiscal year 2009 budget and a raft of proposed capital expenses.

Not making the selectmen’s job any easier, in a year that has fulfilled its promise of being a difficult one in which to balance the needs of the town against a shrinking pool of revenue, was the fact that many of the articles considered Monday night did not yet have specific amounts attached to them. Barnes warned that the budget forecast is currently in a deficit.

Although a tentative number of $16,049,386 had been determined by the ongoing work of the Finance Committee as the bottom line for 2009, Barnes told selectmen at their April 8 meeting that it did not represent a firm figure.

Included in the tentative budget total is that of the North Middlesex Regional School District which has come in at $8,324,172 plus the Nashoba Valley Technical High School assessment.

This year’s budget came to $15,912,827.

Projecting into the next several years, Barnes said that the situation was not expected to improve. He added that things would only get worse should the town use money from its reserve accounts to make up a deficit, forcing it to make up twice as much in following years.

In fact, even as things stood, Barnes said that fiscal 2010 was already shaping up to be a “very difficult” year.

Not that fiscal 2009 is going to be any easier, with such warrant articles as those seeking cost-of-living adjustments for the town’s non-union employees. Again, Barnes cautioned that approving the increase could mean having to lay off some employees in order to afford the COLA for those who remained.

A battle between the town’s police chief and fire chief over the purchase of laptop computers for their emergency vehicles loomed larger than it would in ordinary times.

Fire Chief Donald Klein, who was present at Monday’s meeting, said that although he needed the laptops in each of his vehicles in order to expedite communications between headquarters and EMS vehicles while they were on the road, he was willing to compromise with police Chief Erving Marshall for their use.

The dispute over the laptops would never have arisen if money were not so tight, a situation that had already removed the proposed purchase of a new $850,000 ladder truck for the Fire Department from the list of capital expenditures.

Other capital expenditures being requested include a new pickup truck, sander body, and ongoing roadway repaving for the town’s streets by the Highway Department; planning costs for the new recreation center by the Recreation Department; and improvements to the communications center by the Police Department totaling an estimated $800,000.

Also on the warrant will be articles dealing with the appropriation of $1,000 for use in the town’s 300th Anniversary celebration; appropriation of $3,500 for the purchase of a trailer for the Cemetery and Parks Department; authority for selectmen to lease the old bank building annex; the formal acceptance of a 44-acre parcel being donated to the town by the Sterilite Corp. as the site of the new highway garage; amendment of the town’s bylaws to increase membership of the Council on Aging from seven to nine; and an amendment to the town’s bylaws to reduce the quorum requirement at town meeting to 1.

Town meeting is scheduled for May 6.