AYER --- The Finance Committee was slammed with another legal issue for the town on Wednesday night that could leave the town paying a six-figure request.
The town's most recent dilemma in a string of legal battles involves a court summons served to the town on Feb. 12 over alleged breach of contract.
Bolduc Enterprises, the town's deputy collector that retrieves motor-vehicle excise taxes, claims that Tax Collector John Canney breached the service contract when he terminated Bolduc's services for better services with another competitor. Contract breaches are not covered by town insurance.
"This matter has been assigned to special counsel within the town counsel," he said. "The board will be discussing what can be discussed in public regarding it on Tuesday. Per the summons, the town has 20 days to file an answer."
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand told the committee on Wednesday night that the amount in damages could be six figures.
Despite the new dilemma and other unresolved contract matters, Pontbriand still recommends his original town counsel budget proposal of $85,000 for fiscal year 2015. The number is $7,000 up from last year, but Pontbriand called the request reasonable and conservative.
The town has a number of open or ongoing legal matters, including Treasurer Stephanie Gintner's lawsuit against Ayer and the medical-marijuana dispensary, which could bring more legal issues as the dispensary develops.
The town has spent $9,200 of town counsel money on property enforcement between January 2013 until February 2014. Meanwhile, Gintner's lawsuit has cost the town an amount estimated at more than $18,000 between September 2011 to November 2013.
Yet, the proposed budget is still less than the proposed town counsel budget for the surrounding communities of Groton and Lunenburg, which are proposing $90,000 and $125,000 respectively.
Following the bleak message was another budget presentation from Ayer-Shirley Regional School District Superintendent Carl Mock.
As he told selectmen last week, there is an unmet need of $1.2 million in this year's budget. Ayer's operating budget is expected to take a 7.6 percent increase at about $9.6 million, while Shirley's is set to increase about 11 percent to $5.9 million.
And Shirley is struggling with the ability to pay for the school system, a problem that has sparked a call for long-term planning that will stabilize the district's future.
Drawing on the atmosphere from the previous night's school advisory meeting, Chair Scott Houde questioned why Shirley entered the regionalization agreement when they cannot even afford to pay even a 3 percent increase in their budget.
He said the solution cannot just be to have Ayer pay the difference just because it is able to.
"We want to pay what we feel is our fair share, but we want to make sure that if we're going to take our pains that everyone takes their pains," he said. "What I look at in Shirley is a revenue problem."
The two towns are forming a panel with representatives from each board of selectmen and finance committee, as well as the town administrators and town, accountants to discuss the issue.
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