SHIRLEY -- In a brief joint session with selectmen Monday night, Finance Committee Chairman Mike Swanton said his board hasn't taken a formal vote yet but in general supports reductions aimed at balancing the budget, which is about $300,000 in the red.

FinCom is leaning toward the second of two budget-balancing options Town Administrator Patrice Garvin presented to the selectmen a couple of weeks ago.

FinCom does not support continuing to use one-time funds for the operating budget, Swanton told selectmen. "We've tried to put the brakes" on that practice for years, he said. Instead, the town needs new revenue or must cut expenses, Swanton continued.

But this is no time to talk about tax overrides, either. With the school building project due to hit town tax bills next year, "only reductions make sense," Swanton said.

Once a plan is in place, presumably with staff reductions, the Finance Committee would like to sit down with selectmen to reallocate or discontinue work done by the laid-off employees, Swanton said. If the town reduces its "head count" but wants to do so without cutting services, this step is a must-do, in his view.

The two options are:

* Level-fund the operating budget and close the gap with one-time funds, using some but not all of the town's free cash and state prison mitigation money.

* Make necessary cuts without losing services.

Garvin has said that both options hinge on a 4.88 percent increase in this year's regional school assessment, although the School Committee's first-draft budget calls for twice that much.

When selectmen discussed the options at a previous meeting, with only two of three members present, Bob Prescott and Chairwoman Kendra Dumont tended to favor the second option, but they held off taking a position until the full board could discuss it. No vote has yet been taken, although all three members were present at the recent meeting.