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Correspondent

SHIRLEY — The Board of Selectmen has been holding joint budget deficit meetings with the School and Finance committees to address a deficit that started at $1.8 million.

Now it’s $1.2 million, according to town administrator Kyle Keady, who’s been working behind the scenes to whittle it down.

But with the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) looming, the town’s top officials haven’t reached consensus on a plan of action.

The intent is to present a balanced budget at the ATM, said selectmen Chairman Leonardo “Chip” Guercio. To do that, the gap must be closed, he said, presumably with a combination of newly identified revenues and cuts across the board.

But at a May 1 meeting, tax collector Holly Haase questioned whether that’s the boards’ purview. Voters should decide if they want to cut services, she said.

There was some discussion about department budget amounts as presented versus figures the Finance Committee recommends.

“We can recommend a higher amount,” said Finance Committee member Ellen Doiron, and voters can choose it. But there’s a catch.

If one number is higher than the other, and the lesser amount fits the balanced-budget scenario, there must be a revenue source to bridge the gap. The higher number could be made contingent on a tax override, but nobody at the table liked that idea.

Guercio said he won’t propose an override without a significant grass-roots call for it.

To date, there’s no override in the offing, but there’s still a problem to be solved.

Specific cuts aside, a key issue the boards have been wrangling with during their deficit discussions is how to equitably split the shortfall between school and municipal budgets.

The ATM date is slated for June 9, but Guercio has indicated it might be subject to change. The deadline for signing the ATM warrant is just a couple of weeks away.

After a smaller, working session May 9, another tri-board sit-down is set for May 12, at 6 p.m., before the selectmen’s meeting.

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