AYER -- Town Meeting cut about $37,000 from the budget Monday night after voting to cut the budget for Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board to zero.
The omnibus budget originally projected for a 5.06 percent increase, passed at a lower value of $11,760,637 after members voted to zero out the budgets for the two boards.
Former Selectman Carolyn McCreary took the floor to say that the departments are not running efficiently.
She began to speak about the administration for the boards, but faced objection from Jim Lucchesi, a member of both boards who argued that there would be slandering of a current town employee.
The employee is possibly Susan Sullivan, the office manager for the Planning Board and zoning administrator for the ZBA.
Town counsel and Town Moderator Tom Horgan urged McCreary to explain the motion only with respect to the budget and not to staff issues.
McCreary was still able to get her point across, arguing that there are instances where the board has not served the town well.
"We have paid financially through unnecessary legal fees and untimely bond releases, our talented volunteers have resigned because of threats and personal legal actions, the town has even forfeited a gift of valuable acres of property," she said before Lucchesi spoke again.
The ZBA and Planning Board members are all volunteers, but as an office manager and administrator, Sullivan is paid.
The vote was 54-20 to empty the ZBA budget of $18,234 and 51 to 18 to empty the Planning Board budget of $19,081.
Former Selectman Connie Sullivan later asked the floor to reconsider the omnibus budget, but Town Meeting voted no.
The new zero-dollar budget for both boards will begin in July, the start of the town's new fiscal year.
The omnibus budget also included funding for two new positions, a town engineer at $70,000 and a day position in the Fire Department at $75,000.
Ayer's portion of the school assessment passed at $9,365,752, an increase of about $446,000. Debt from the high-school building budget passed at $1,015,018.
The regional school budget has been rife with problems this fiscal year, as Shirley's Finance Committee has maintained it cannot fund its part of the assessment if passed as is.
Elizabeth Bodurtha said Shirley got its operating budget down to bare bones, but Ayer has an increase.
"I don't see how that's fair, especially when they don't have the money," she said. "The question I'm having today is, if they can't bring that money to fruition, what are you going to do?"
School Committee member Dan Gleason explained the potential process that might follow according to state law, but said he can't speak for what Shirley may do.
"I don't think it's appropriate to discuss what Shirley may or may not do, they have their own entity, they have their own Town Meeting," he said.
The assessment for the Nashoba Valley Technical High School was approved at $583,059, a decrease from last year.
Voters also approved $1 million to replace the East Main Street water mains and $750,000 to replace the sewer mains.
Approved capital-budget requests include $150,000 for other water-main replacements and $35,000 for a cardiac monitor for the Fire Department.
Voters agreed to transfer $475,000 in free cash for a heavy-rescue truck for the Fire Department. Voters also passed $31,000 to replace the police chief's car and $168,000 for Town Hall window replacements.
Alcoholic beverage hours can also now be held between 10 a.m. and noon on Sundays with authorization.
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