I am writing today to express my support for the operational override vote ($1.1M) scheduled for June 16. I urge you to please vote in the support of this measure.
As many of you are aware, I was one of your selectmen at the start of the Great Recession. At that time, the Board of Selectmen was placed in a precarious position as the board, along with the Finance Committee and department heads, confronted the challenges of balancing the town's budget in very trying times.
At the end of that budget cycle, town meeting voted on a budget that drastically reduced services, which included staff reductions in police and public works; service reductions in multiple departments; an increase in revenues through an override; and, the continued backfilling of the deficit through the use of reserves. These were dire times requiring extreme measures. I was well aware the town needed more revenues than what was approved, but we had to take a slow and steady path to recovery, given the state of our economy.
Through this very difficult period, the elected boards and the town's department heads worked collaboratively and, in the best interests of our residents, to hold the line on expenses. Town officials drafted a multi-year plan that would eventually make the town's finances whole within a four- to five-year period and during the ensuing years, we were close to making that mark. Then the hammer fell!
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts changed the funding formula for the North Middlesex Regional School District, thereby, placing a greater burden for funding on the town of Pepperell. This change is being mandated by the state; the district has no control over this change in funding. We also are sending more students the Nashoba Tech, which has a higher cost per student than the district and, therefore, further increasing our costs.
As a result of these changes, the town is placed in a position where the annual two and a half percent increase in revenue is being totally consumed by both the district and Nashoba Tech. The town of Pepperell is not only coming up short on our operational budget, but capital needs such as building repairs, etc., are not being addressed in a timely manner.
The need to continue investing in our town's services has never been greater. We as a community are confronted with yet another challenge: The proposed pipeline. Now is not the time to reduce budgets in the planning and conservation areas. We need those resources to be fully engaged to protect our interests and the town's natural beauty.
The proposed staff reductions in police, public works and communications will have a long-lasting, corrosive impact to our town. I am truly concerned.
We have an obligation to the next generation to invest now so as to protect the future; to ensure we leave this place called home in a better condition than when we arrived. Supporting this override will make a statement to the younger generations that the town of Pepperell is worth the investment and a place where you should come back and raise a family.
Please vote yes on June 16!
Joseph A. Sergi