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SHIRLEY — Assessor Ronald Marchetti, fire Chief Dennis Levesque and police Chief Paul Thibodeau were among the department heads who defended their budgets versus cuts the Finance Committee recommended on the fourth night of Annual Town Meeting.

Most of them got what they asked for, more or less.

Marchetti made a case for a single line item in the assessor’s budget: $5,000 for a clerical assistant that the FinCom had zeroed out.

“We’ve made great strides” toward a six-year goal to reorganize the assessor’s office and save the town $100,000, he said. The part-time job is key to that goal.

The plan Marchetti mapped out hinges on bringing operations such as property evaluations back in-house.

Extra hands in the office make it possible for chief assessor Rebecca Caldbeck to go out to do on-site the evaluations, he explained. Absent that option, the town would continue to pay an outside contractor to do the job, he said, and the cost is set to go up next year.

Marchetti said the person hired to help Caldbeck is a retired professional assessor with over 20 years’ experience. She’s a valued addition to the office and does even more work than she’s paid for, he said.

Voters agreed to fund the position.

Marchetti didn’t push for elected officials’ salaries, which the FinCom cut from $7,733.16 to $300. At a previous meeting, voters backed a similar pay cut for the Board of Selectmen.

The downsized Finance Committee recommendations were cost-cutting moves to address a $1.2 million shortfall and balance the budget.

It also proposed to cut clerical assistants for the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals and to merge their part-time duties into one full-time assistant for all three boards.

Finance Committee member Cheryl Hayden said the board had done its homework before concocting the consolidation plan and that similar set-ups work well in other towns.

But none of the boards were happy with the idea.

Among those who successfully argued against it were Chairman Denise Brauckmiller and administrator Anne Gagnon, of the Conservation Commission, and several associate board members; Planning Board Chairman Charles Colburn and ZBA member Deborah Delaite.

Fire Chief Dennis Levesque said his department can’t get by on the FinCom’s figure, either. He made a motion to amend up the board’s $287,300 recommendation to $388,00, topping the requested budget by $88,700.

The move was a surprise to the FinCom, said member Michael Smith. “The chief brought up this new number tonight. I hadn’t heard it before,” he said.

Levesque’s bottom line pays for six full-time firefighters and maintains 24-hour coverage with two firefighter/EMT’s on every shift, he said.

He explained what would happen if the FinCom’s version of his budget prevailed. “Absorbing these impacts means giving up time,” he said. That is, the schedule would be “short-shifted” when a full-time firefighter is on vacation, out sick or on leave. “That will slow response times,” he said, and in the emergency business, response time is critical.

There was a good deal of discussion, the gist of which was that the town budget deficit has grown substantially over the course of the ATM, as voters agreed to fund department budgets beyond FinCom recommendation.

This time, voters opted for a compromise, bypassing both the FinCom recommendation and Levesque’s eleventh hour proposal to fund the $299,000 requested on the warrant.

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