PEPPERELL -- Selectmen on Monday approved a renewal of the Peter Fitzpatrick School building lease to the North Middlesex Regional School District for continued use as the district's headquarters.
The new lease lasts through June 30, 2015.
Selectman Michael Green mentioned the possibility that the town would put the building up for sale some time in the future.
Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers asked that the town work with the school district if that were to happen.
"I'd hope that we could work together on behalf of the children if the town were to take possession," Landers said.
In the meantime, the School Committee will be looking ahead toward possible options for relocation if the town sells the building in the coming years, Landers said.
"We're all going to try to look out for what's best for our students as well as what's best for the town of Pepperell as a whole," Green said.
Selectmen also continued talks on the possibility of significant cuts to the operational budget if a Proposition 2 1/2 override is not passed.
Passing an override would counter a $400,000 deficit that is expected to grow to about $2.3 million by 2018 if left unchecked.
The Finance Committee is considering three options -- raising the tax levy by $600,000, $800,000 or $1 million.
If an override doesn't pass, department heads will face 5 percent budget cuts.
Selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis said that the town needs to do something to address both its growing deficit and the lack of a capital plan.
"You don't want to be going back to town residents every few years asking for more. You have to have some kind of plan," Themelis said.
Although other overrides have been passed in recent years, none of them have addressed the issue of the deficit, according to Town Administrator John Moak. Instead, they've gone toward funding specific services, including the library and senior center.
An override last year went entirely toward the school system. Finance Committee Chairman Melissa Tzanoudakis said now is the time to focus on the operational side of the budget.
"We need to make sure that the operational budget is as healthy as the school side of the budget," she said.
Resident Phil Durno said cutting the department's budgets by 5 percent would be difficult, if not nearly impossible.
"If you take 5 percent away, they're already working at a minimum now," Durno said.
Tzanoudakis said the extent of the impact on individual departments if an override is not passed would not be known until the committee meets with department heads in January and February.
The committee is expected to meet with selectmen in early February for a progress report.
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