TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School District finance subcommittee is currently evaluating a .5 percent, a 1 percent and a 1.5 percent budget increase for fiscal 2014, said Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers. Based on a 1 percent funded budget, Townsend would see its assessment drop by $93,984.
Landers addressed the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday to let members know where the district is in its fiscal 2014 budget process. The subcommittee has been meeting since November, and has already produced eight budget scenarios.
The reason that the district had been evaluating a 1 to 1.5 percent increase is due to a change in the target shares for communities statewide, and the effect it will have on the North Middlesex communities. The numbers were released by the state in late January.
Townsend is seeing a reduction in its minimum contribution by $127,053. Ashby is seeing a reduction of approximately $92,000. Pepperell is seeing an increase of approximately $472,000.
Based on these numbers and on a 1 percent increase to the school's budget, Townsend would see a total operational decrease of approximately $106,500. However, because chapter 71 transportation aid came in at approximately $69,000 lower than last year, Townsend will see a $12,515 increase in this, according to Landers.
The 1 percent budget numbers Landers provided were to give the board an idea of their current status for the purposes of the meeting. However, she was directed by the finance subcommittee to look at a .5 percent budget and will be meeting with her budget leaders to put forward another proposal to the full School Committee on Thursday to solidify a budgetary direction.
"It's not a done deal, it's understanding the scenarios," said School Committee Chairwoman Susan Robbins.
"I might be back in another month with my 17th version," said Landers.
The state devises the target shares with a formula based on several factors, including but not limited to income, property value, enrollment and growth.
"It's all based on what you can afford as a town," said Robbins.
"One of the ways, in a weird way, it helps Townsend is that our property values have dropped over the last several years with the recession. Pepperell's have dropped not as far ... that drives up their target share and drives down our target share and Ashby's target share," said Town Administrator Andy Sheehan.
The school will be having a public hearing to discuss the budget on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at the high school.
In other business:
* Selectmen voted to combine the primary election and the upcoming town election on April 30. By combining the elections, the town will see a savings of about $1,200 to $1,500.
* The board voted to authorize an additional $50,000 in deficit spending for snow and ice removal for the Highway Department. This is the only part of the budget that the town is allowed to run a deficit on. The board had originally approved $75,000 in deficit spending, but with the recent blizzard, said Sheehan, the department has reached that threshold.
* Selectmen approved a request from Fire Chief Donald Klein to apply for a SAFER grant to hire two new full-time employees. The grant would pay for cost of maintaining the employees, including salaries and benefits, for two years. After two years, the town would be responsible for picking up the cost, but there is no obligation to do so.
* Town Clerk Sue Funaiole named Sam as winner of the number one dog tag. Sam's owners Mike and Kathy Vorse won a blanket and gift cards to Country Flair and the Townsend Veterinary Clinic. Sam's number was pulled after the Vorses registered him.
A $5 late fee for registering dogs begins on March 1.