PEPPERELL — The town is looking at filling an unanticipated $472,546 gap in the school budget.
Town Administrator John Moak announced the number to the Board of Selectmen at their Monday Meeting. Through cherry sheets and Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget proposals, Moak said he was informed that all towns will be required meet their target shares for minimum contribution for regional school districts.
Each town’s required minimum contribution is determined by a formula based on several factors, largely the property valuations and the income in the communities.
The amount is a result of major changes within the three communities in regards to these factors, said Moak. Ashby’s target share is dropping by $92,944. Townsend’s is dropping by $127,053. Because Pepperell’s property valuation have not dropped as in other areas, and income has increased, they are seeing an increase in their minimum contribution.
The town had forecasted $11,329,958, an increase of $215,000 in their North Middlesex Regional School District budget over last year.
Selectman Joseph Sergi addressed viewers at home, reiterating that the mandate is coming from the state and not the school district.
Although they had known that such a mandate was possible, said Sergi, “This is a remarkable increase and not something that town of Pepperell could be prepared for.”
The minimum contribution does not take into account the remaining portion of the school’s operational needs budget, which Superintendent Joan Landers said she is currently working on with the School Committee.
Sergi, who announced at the last meeting that he will not be running for re-election, brought up sending a communication to the Planning Board regarding a decision not to recommend rezoning the Peter Fitzpatrick School into a commercial property, despite the selectmen’s recommendation to approve the article for Town Meeting.
“I think we should instruct the Town Administrator to reach out to the Planning Board to see what have they to say about that because I think the Pepperell Board of Selectmen were being proactive in trying to idenfity that we have a funding gap and we definitely — there’s other solutions other than raising taxes,” said Sergi.
Sergi said he felt the Planning Board’s decision “prevented the town from having a fruitful discussion” regarding what residents wanted for services in town.
In his 16 years of serving on various boards, said Sergi, his experience was that “one board always supports another.”
The other selectmen did not move for a motion.
In other business, selectmen voted during a short public hearing to allow National Grid to remove a fallen pole from Heald Street.
Selectmen also made a motion to request an internal review of the police department weapons policies and procedures.
Selectman Michael Green, who suggested the motion, stressed that the request was not a result of any incident occurring within the station or the town, but said he thought it would be a good practice.