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PEPPERELL — Selectmen have sent a clear message to the North Middlesex Regional School District (NMRSD) Committee’s 2011 budget setting process: Look harder to reduce the town’s increased assessment and to stop using teacher loss and class size scare tactics.

The draft $43 million 2011 school budget has been chopped 1.5 percent, yet Pepperell’s assessment has risen by 2.5 percent at a time when some municipal departmental budgets have been cut 30 percent, Chairman Joseph Sergi said.

Allegedly simple answers to questions posed of the school district last November have yet to be answered.

According to a memo from this week’s School Committee Finance Subcommittee that Sergi brought to his board Monday night, Pepperell’s request to trim $350,000 from its school bill “results in an overall budget reduction of $3 million.”

“That’s some amazing math,” Sergi said.

He also was”not sure” why chopping $350,000 from Pepperell’s share of school costs in a so-called “Pepperell Scenario,” actually means a $700,000 cut in the school budget.

In addition, Sergi said that Pepperell’s school debt service dropped $125,000 in fiscal 2010, but the savings in outgoing revenue has not been applied against his townís $350,000 request.

“It goes back to good information to the public. No one spoke to it at tonight’s School (finance) Committee meeting. I’m waiting for it to come out,” Sergi said.

Selectman Patrick McNabb, who had asked for the school discussion so “it won’t slip off the face of the earth,” said selectmen should “send a strong message” that the 2.5 percent assessment increase that would maintain a level-service school budget “isn’t worth doing because we can’t afford it.”

“There has been no response to our questions about unions concessions that were made. They’re following the “Marshall Plan” of spend, spend, spend,” McNabb said of School Superintendent Maureen Marshall’s proposals.

“They are not listening to us. They are going off on their own. It’s disgraceful,” McNabb said.

“I am not happy. There should be a level assessment for Pepperell or some decrease. Don’t focus on cutting teachers. That’s scare tactics,” he said.

“We’re sitting here with an empty (Peter Fitzpatrick Elementary) school that we added to a few years ago. We need to do better. The message isn’t getting through,” he said.

Sergi found it “unbelievable” that some School Committee members are complaining about a 1.5 percent budget cut after “lumping” Pepperell’s $350,000 assessment request into the $43 million district budget were a 10 percent cut equals $4.3 million, then talking about it creating need for a $3 million cutback.

“The $3 million figure was unbelievable to tell to folks. It goes to the whole Scott Brown thing where there has been a lot of funny stuff in the public sector, such as the Louisiana Deal. Schools to the town are what health care is to the nation. Stop the politicking,” Sergi said.

There is a partial explanation at hand.

According to Townsend selectmen, School Committee Chairman Arnold Silva said in a joint session in Townsend that should Pepperell receive its $350,000 decrease, Townsend would be getting a $280,000 assessment drop and Ashby would receive the remainder of the $700,000. In short, any decrease for Pepperell would have to be shared.

Pepperell has asked the school district to explain where the aforementioned $3 million figure comes from; to render the status of the Peter Fitzpatrick School; to provide a breakdown of school union concessions; and lastly, the status of Marshall’s shared superintendency with the Quabbin Regional School District, which was to have saved $90,000 that was to be used to rehire teachers.

Selectman Joseph Hallisey found the lack of response “disappointing since it is not incredibly difficult.”

“Enrollment is down 9 percent and they’re suggesting a 2.5 percent increase. There’s a fundamental math problem,” he said. “I have kids in the school system. I’m not asking that teachers be laid off. I’m asking it be more efficient.”

McNabb added: “You summed it up. Another word is sacrifice. We need a good, hard look at administrator salaries (recommended to increase 3.5 to 4 percent).”

“What’s going on with the shared superintendent? There was to be a $90,000 savings. Is that to be brought back in? Are teachers being sacrificed for it?” McNabb finished.

“We must be careful (not to see) the Pepperell Board of Selectmen labeled as not school friendly and one that doesn’t understand what (schools) do,” Sergi said.

“There has been talk of a school budget being a moral document. Well, Fire Department, Police Department and paramedic budgets are also “moral documents.”

Selectmen directed Town Administrator John Moak to get the answers to their questions from Marshall and to bring to the board the slide presentation made at this week’s school finance session that spoke to trimming guidance and athletics.

“We need to get through this cycle,” Sergi said.

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