Projection shows $75G deficit if
AYER — Ayer’s financial future is rosier, assuming the simultaneous March 6 Ayer and Shirley town meetings both approve to regionalize their schools into one district. That’s the thrust of a five-year budgeting model developed by the Ayer TriBoard, which was presented Feb. 18.
In recent months, the TriBoard expressed fears that the town was headed for $1 million structural deficit over the next five years based on assumptions that have since been roughed out and presented by Ayer Selectman Rick Gilles.
Gilles presented two projection models, one reflecting the outlook if a new school district in created, the other if it fails.
The figures used are rough estimates, at best, said Gilles. “They’re wrong, but the idea is they’re showing us a trend based on our best guess and good historical analysis of data” and can provide a “frame of reference” in the coming year when budgeting forward.
Without regionalization, the projection is for as high as a $750,000 deficit arising as soon as fiscal 2012, due purely to the “cost of doing business and debt service on new debt. We’re retiring debt now faster than taking on new (but) the cost of doing business is exceeding our revenues.”
With regionalization, Ayer stays above the red ink until fiscal 2014, where it dips a toe into the red by a projected $36,000.
Therefore, Gilles concluded, “the bottom line here is if we regionalize, we’re actually putting ourselves in a fiscally better place” or else slide into “quite a deficit.”
Gilles said the structural deficit created by the annual property tax capping Proposition 2 1/2 is “finally coming home to roost.” With the town having settled two long simmering wrongful convictions suits last summer, the structural deficit “is the next risk we’ll have to face with regionalization or without.”
Gilles thanked Town Accountant Lisa Gabree for the assist in creating the blueprints. As final tweaks are made, Gabree urged that the same presentation be made on the floor of the March 6 Ayer Town Meeting “so people know what they’re voting” with regard to school vote impact on the town coffers.