PEPPERELL — The town’s operating budget for fiscal 2020 remains in limbo as the Board of Selectmen’s recent decision will have to be made again.
At its meeting on Monday night, the board voted 2-1 to put a balanced operating budget of $27.8 million for next year on the warrant for the annual Town Meeting on May 6.
According to Town Administrator Andrew MacLean, voter approval of this budget would cause a total of eight layoffs in the police and fire departments, Department of Public Works, Town Hall, Lawrence Library and Senior Center. The budget also noted projected revenues of $27.2 million, which the town would increase to match the operating budget by including $591,898 from a reserve fund meant for town emergencies.
The board also voted to include a supplemental budget on the warrant with a $1.4 million tax override added to town revenues to prevent job cuts and dipping into the reserve fund.
Board Chair Roland Nutter said that while Monday’s meeting was attended more by town department heads than concerned citizens, most of the discussion was among board members discussing the situation. Nutter added that he and Selectman William Greathead voted in favor of both budgets while Clerk Lisa Ferolito voted against them.
“We’re not pleased we have to do this, but we don’t want to make any cuts,” Nutter said.
MacLean pointed out that the vote will have to be retaken given that Nutter and Greathead did not abstain from voting on certain elements of the budget.
Selectmen are not allowed to vote on budget items that affect them directly. Nutter’s wife is a town employee.Greathead, a retired police officer, occasionally works police details.
MacLean said the original plan was to redo the vote on March 25 but he suggested waiting until April 8. This way the board can wait for other minor budget items to be finalized. One of those still-unknown figures comes from the North Middlesex Regional School District, whose original desired budget for the coming year made up nearly 60 percent of the town’s projected operating budget.
“If we wait until April 8, we know we’ll have the school numbers and perhaps some of the other numbers will stop moving,” MacLean said.