PEPPERELL -- A 5 percent cut to the town's operational budget would mean two fewer police officers, reductions in fire and communications personnel and Lawrence Library closing its doors one night a week.
If voters don't pass an override this spring, or if selectmen choose not to put an override on the ballot, those cuts would become reality.
The Finance Committee heard from department heads Jan. 30 on how the cuts would affect their day-to-day operations.
Police Chief David Scott said a 5 percent cut would force him to lay off two officers.
"If we go to minus 5 percent, that's over $83,000 for us, and with supplies and services being cut over the last several years to basically bare bones, we really have no other options than to lay off two patrol officers," Scott said.
The town usually staffs 16 officers. Scott said he is in the process of hiring for one of those positions.
"We'd lose that position that we're currently hiring for as well as another, which would cause us to have to pull our detective back into patrol. There would be no officer in schools, the senior clerk position would be eliminated, plus all of the community service and other things we do would be totally wiped out," Scott said.
With two officers required during each shift, the remaining 14 officers would be stretched thin.
"With two less officers and with their salaries going up and overtime staying about the same, it's that many less shifts you can fill because they're making more money. So then you're getting into officer safety issues or liability issues with being able to fill an adequate number of shifts," Scott said.
If an override passes and departments can increase their budgets by 1.5 percent, the Police Department would still need to make cuts, Scott said, due to promised salary increases.
"A 1.5 percent increase actually puts us $5,000 in the hole, so to counter that I actually reduced the senior clerk's hours by about half (in the projections)," Scott said.
The senior clerk is a part-time administrative position currently vacant due to the clerk being promoted to the full-time administrative-assistant position.
The Fire Department is projected to be over a 1.5 percent increase due to raises, and would have to make staffing cuts if a 5 percent reduction becomes necessary.
"It would have to be personnel. There's nowhere else to take it from," Fire Chief Toby Tyler said.
For Communications Director Frank Quattrochi, the cuts would mean reductions in staffing of 20 hours per week. That would leave only one person on-duty to answer 911 calls during the busiest shifts.
"During the real busy times it becomes extremely difficult," Quattrochi said.
Lawrence Library would have to close its doors one evening a week, cutting hours for part-time employees, and would take a furlough week in the summer.
Library Director Deb Spratt said she would also have to cancel all magazine and most newspaper subscriptions, and reduce the budget for books and audio books.
"I feel like I just keep digging the hole deeper," Spratt said.
With about 350 people coming into the library each day, and 65 percent of the population holding a library card, Spratt said cutting hours would be a detriment to the town.
"I shouldn't even have to be talking about closing; I should be here saying to you we need to be open Monday for eight hours or 10 hours to accommodate people's needs," she said.