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Half-mil hit for reg’l schools

PEPPERELL — There was good news and there was bad news at the start of a budget-planning meeting March 5.

The recently-released governor’s budget gives Pepperell a little bit of extra local aid, about $75,000, Town Administrator Mark Andrews told the Finance Committee at the beginning of the meeting.

He promised a revised revenue sheet next week using the figures from the governor’s budget.

The good news was tempered with bad.

“After a very, very long day today, regional school districts did not fare as well as cities and towns,” Andrews said.

Nashoba Valley Technical High School is down about $90,000 from what was expected, he said.

The situation at North Middlesex Regional School District is a little bit more dire, Andrews said. Their state aid would be reduced by $570,000 if the governor’s budget stands.

The superintendent and the district business administrator are looking to see just what can be done to mitigate the situation, he said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

Like the school budget, he said the town budget is still in process as he continues to meet with department heads.

Under the charter and under the law, the town must submit a balanced budget,” Andrews said.

Virginia Malouin, a member of the Board of Health, discussed its budget with the Finance Committee.

Expenses for monitoring the landfill and running a hazardous waste day were moved to the capital budget, Andrews said.

It might not be necessary to hold a hazardous waste day yearly, Malouin said. The last time one was held, not enough was collected to reach the minimum set by the contractor.

The expense for monitoring the capped landfill will be offset by electricity savings when the solar array on the landfill is in operation, said Town Engineer Ken Kalinowski. The cap needs to be monitored until 2028.

The Highway Department is looking to replace one worker who was laid off in fiscal 2015, said Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck.

The department is facing other challenges. The town receives $500,000 yearly for road work from the state, but really needs to be doing $800,000 to $1 million worth of work a year, Kalinowski said.

“We’re way underfunding the roads,” he said. The town budgets $7,500 for road repair.

“Take a ride around after the next rainstorm,” Shattuck said.

“On a positive note,” Andrews said, the release of $100 million by the governor on the first day of his term means an additional $206,000 can be added for road repairs.

Shattuck included a capital plan that requested two used trucks, partial funding for a backhoe, a cushion if needed when trading an excavator for a more versatile machine, and building improvements.

One truck is 24 years old and another is 18. “These trucks are used up,” he said. The backhoe dates from 1979; he is looking to replace it in 2017.

The highway building has no break room where the guys can eat at a table. It needs a better parts room and a mechanics’ office, Shattuck said.

“It’s one room,” he said. “It’s not right and something should be done.”

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