PEPPERELL -- The Pepperell Senior Center may have to cut back its evening and weekend programs if a Proposition 2 1/2 override does not pass and budget cuts of 5 percent or more become necessary, Council on Aging Director Marcia Zaniboni said.
Zaniboni was among the department heads who presented to the Finance Committee on Feb. 6 on the effects that budget cuts would have on their operations.
In order to counter a growing budget deficit, the Finance Committee made a preliminary recommendation of a $1 million override to selectmen on Feb. 10 to balance the town's operational budget without harsh cuts.
"We've worked hard the last couple of years to add in evening and weekend programs to attract people who can't come during the week. I'd hate to see it happen because it would set us back years," Zaniboni said in an interview.
Although the facility is only open until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, Zaniboni said the senior center frequently keeps its door open in the evening to allow seniors and others in the community to participate in classes and programs.
The high costs of paying for gas and electricity during these extra hours may be prohibitive if the budget cuts go forward. And with a rising senior population in town, Zaniboni said the cuts would be coming at a particularly difficult time.
"If we did have to cut back, it means when all the Baby Boomers retire in a couple of years, we're not going to be ready to have them here," Zaniboni said.
Zaniboni said she could not imagine cutting staffing any further, because the department is so understaffed as it is.
"We're not the only department affected, but I just don't know what we would do cutting back at a time when the senior population is growing. We'd be offering less to more people," she said.
The effects of the cuts on the administrative departments in town hall are less clear, Town Administrator John Moak said.
Moak said that the administrative departments had not yet produced budgets that would show the impact of the cuts.
"No one came up with concrete cuts yet, but it's going to have to happen because we're going to have to come up with a balanced budget," Moak said.
Veterans' Services Officer Joe Mazzola said that he submitted a $150,000 budget, the same as last year's budget, because the town is legally required to pay the full amount of veterans' benefits to town residents.
-- Chelsea Feinstein