PEPPERELL -- The draft in development for a town charter in Pepperell would expand the role of the town administrator and redefine the town's budget process, members of the Charter Commission said at a public forum Monday night.
"The Town Administrator will be the appointing authority for department heads. That will allow for a somewhat centralized approach to our town government, but it hasn't gone all the way," Commission Chairman Joseph Sergi said.
The commission has completed a draft of a charter, but is still soliciting public feedback and making adjustments until Aug. 23, when the commission is required to submit a completed draft to the Attorney General's Office.
After comments from the Attorney General's Office, a final draft must be presented to the Board of Selectmen in October. If approved, the charter will be voted on in next April's town elections.
Under the proposed draft, the town administrator would appoint all department heads, but selectmen would be able to challenge any town administrator appointments within 15 days.
"We're ensuring that the checks and balances are in place if there is an appointment that doesn't seem right," Sergi said.
"It's the balance between a town administrator and not a town manager. A town manager wouldn't have those checks and balances."
The charter would also streamline the town's current budget processes by having the department heads submit their budgets to the town administrator, who would then submit an overall budget to selectmen and then the Finance Committee for review.
"It takes the burden of going into line-item detail from the Finance Committee to the town administrator," Sergi said.
The current system, in which department heads submit their budgets directly to the Finance Committee, have the potential to cause financial trouble, Sergi said.
"We had a $2 million structural deficit overnight, and it was cloudy how we got there. It's not going to be cloudy going forward," Sergi said.
Additionally, the charter would give the town administrator authority over the oversight and maintenance of town offices, and relieve selectmen of some administrative duties, such as routine appointments.
The current draft also calls for changing the town treasurer/tax collector and town clerk from elected to appointed positions.
Commission member Marcia Zaniboni said there were four main goals in writing the charter: to improve the fiscal efficiency of town offices, to clarify the role of the town administrator, to improve the overall management of town offices and to make the appointments of town personnel more consistent.
Sergi said the commission has considered changing some boards, including the Board of Health and the Board of Assessors from three members to five members, but has not yet made a final decision.
Sergi said changing some boards to five members without changing others, such as the Board of Selectmen, wouldn't make sense.
"We're in a crawl-walk-run stage right now. We wanted to change only what we have to change," Sergi said.