AYER -- Town Meeting voted this spring to join the Nashoba Valley Technical High School, a vote that's expected to save the town money. Ayer already sends students to the school in Westford on a tuition basis and separately finances those transportation costs.
Ayer now has a seat at NVTHS committee meetings. Its formal membership begins in the 2013-2014 school year, when the town pays an assessment instead of tuition.
As was noted this past spring, a separate vote was to follow at fall Town Meeting to finance the town's $550,000 capital buy-in contribution toward the school's capital account. Another approach offered was for the town to finance the amount over three years for a total cost of $750,000. Most agree the direct payment route is preferred.
Now there's talk of selectmen paying the bill outright from the town's Urban Development Action Grant account instead of putting the $550,000 sum before Town Meeting. This approach suggests refunding the UDAG loan over five years in $100,000 annual payments from the omnibus budget.
"Transportation (savings) alone would cover that," Finance Committee member John Kilcommins said.
"That's $77,000 (annually) alone," Selectman Gary Luca agreed at last week's joint meeting.
Finance Committee Chair Scott Houde said a $100,000 per year payback approach "should be very feasible."
The idea was scheduled for discussion on selectmen's Sept. 25 agenda. The fall Town Meeting warrant is to close Friday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. Fall Town Meeting is to take place Monday, Oct. 22.
Luca said the portion of the UDAG account controlled by selectmen has $1.6 million that could be tapped at this time.
Houde said another idea is to pay the UDAG funds back faster using annual certified free cash sums. Though that sum fluctuates, Houde projected the payback could happen in three to four years. "It would pay for itself, figuratively and actually."
Later in the meeting, Selectman Pauline Conley asked if the Finance Committee intended to discuss the merits of the approach before selectmen consider it on Tuesday, Sept. 25. "You're not going to weigh in?" The Finance Committee meets the following night, Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Conley said the UDAG approach is being floated to "avoid Town Meeting," adding, "no one's researching whether it's an appropriate use of that money."
She suggested discussions with former town officials "with historical background on the funds. They cannot be used for just anything, even if we are going to pay it back."
Houde countered, "We all agreed it needs to be paid back."
"As long as you're all here in three to four years," said Conley.