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Staff Writer

AYER — Town department heads have identified where they would make 2 percent and 5 percent cuts to their current budgets if the state were to cut local aid during the remainder of the fiscal year.

While no department head wants to cut his or her budget, they showed unity at a meeting with town administrator Shaun Suhoski by identifying where the cuts could be made, if necessary.

The departments were instructed to identify the cuts and provide the information to the selectmen through Suhoski, via e-mail or internal memo, by Oct. 31. The majority of the departments complied except those that did not hold a scheduled meeting before the Halloween deadline, including the School Committee and Library Trustees.

Police Chief William Murray stated in his memo that his department has already cut 2 percent from its budget by not hiring a new lieutenant and patrolman, which resulted in a savings of $33,963.

If the town called for the 5 percent reduction, Murray stated, then his department would make the necessary adjustments by no longer attending conferences, not using reserve officers and not replacing one of the department’s cruisers.

Murray added that the cuts would not affect the number of personnel the department requires on a daily basis to serve the public. However, not replacing the cruiser could result in the department needing two cruisers in 2010.

The Fire Department, on the other hand, would have to reduce the number of daily personnel and that would affect fire service to the town and public.

Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi stated in his memo that his department has been “fine-tuned” to the point of requiring a reserve fund transfer to cover expenses for the last two years.

In order to meet a 2 percent cut, the Fire Department would need to stop full-time ambulance “callbacks” as well as overtime callbacks for fires. This means that full-time firefighters would not be able to respond to any ambulance or fire calls on their time off, limiting the number of responders during an emergency.

Pedrazzi outlined what it would mean for his department to meet a 5 percent cut.

The Fire Department would have to limit the number of on-duty firefighters from three to two during the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and for 38 periods of 24 hours each, due to vacation time.

Finance manager and town accountant Lisa Gabree suggested cutting back her own hours and renegotiating her contract if a 5 percent cut is required, rather than reduce any of her staff.

For her hours to be reduced, Gabree noted several services that would be impaired or eliminated. These include her attendance at night meetings, helping departments with their budgets, limited (or no) participation on special projects and no internal audits.

Assessment administrator Thomas Hogan said in his memo to Suhoski that he would cut his consulting services line item by $2,909 for the 2 percent cut, or $7,273 for the 5 percent, if necessary.

Facilities Maintenance Director Dan Sherman proposed reducing the hours of a part-time custodian in his department.

Treasurer Denis Callahan said there is nothing left in his budget to cut other than wages.

“Services and supplies comprise only 6 percent of our budget and there is nothing left to cut,” Callahan wrote. “We already have a freeze on any discretionary spending and there is simply nothing left to chop.”

Callahan added the only way to achieve an overall decrease of 5 percent is to cut the salaries of the treasurer, assistant treasurer and part-time assistant by slightly more than 10 percent for the rest of the year.

The Zoning Board of Appeals stated their budget would have to be cut through the “services” line item and the Planning Board would cut their public hearing and seminar expenses to meet the reduction percentages, if necessary.

The Council on Aging, Veterans Agent Manny Velez and Building Inspector Gabriel Vellante all stated they would be prepared to cut their supplies line item in order to help the town.

Velez and Vellante are also prepared to make cuts from the line item “other charges and expenses” if necessary.

There has been no decision as to whether or not the cuts are needed at this time, but selectmen expressed their gratitude at their Nov. 5 meeting for the departments’ unity and willingness to help.