AYER -- With Ayer's certified "free cash" figure is $1.5 million, the Finance Committee discussed its fate.
Free cash is the sum of money left unspent in the prior year's budget, and also represents unexpected growth in the tax base and receipts.
"There haven't been any hard decisions about what we should do with the money," said Committee Chairman Scott Houde. "Spend it, tuck it away ... if spend it, what to spend it on."
"My feeling is simple," said committee member Michael Pattenden. "Forget that we've got it until we need it." Pattenden urged the money be placed into the stabilization account, calling the pot "the most effective place until we need it. I really don't like the idea of sitting down and figuring how to spend free cash."
Houde stated he felt the money should be used to repay a $500,000 withdrawal selectmen authorized from the Urban Development Action Grant fund, which funded the town's capital contribution towards its new membership in the Nashoba Valley Technical High School District. "My thoughts are I'd like to see that repaid immediately."
Otherwise, Houde said he'd like to see a smaller portion of the free cash used to purchase "one-time purchase" items such as the purchase of a TV monitor for the selectmen meeting room, a new Town Hall sign for the front lawn, and other "smaller" capital items.
With the rest, Houde suggested "sizable" contributions to both the stabilization account for unanticipated needs, but also to cover the town's other post employment benefits (OPEB) such as medical, pharmacy, dental, vision, life, long-term disability and long-term care benefits not associated with a pension plan.
Pattenden said he could understand the UDAG payback. "I might argue that was a good thing because it saves us interest." However, Pattenden urged against "just spending it down to just a couple hundred thousand dollars."
Committee member Brian Muldoon said to Houde "I was going to say almost the identical thing" regarding the UDAG repayment and paying for some capital needs. Muldoon said he preferred funding "OPEB before stabilization."
Houde said he'd bring the issue up to the executive board meeting between Finance Committee and selectmen "to see what the consensus is" as the fiscal 2014 budget is being built.
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