TOWNSEND -- Tuesday night's special Board of Selectmen meeting was a brainstorming session for the selectmen as they discussed potential methods with which to close the $417,728 budget deficit left by the failed override election.
Although nothing was officially decided, several ideas for possible sources of the funding were mentioned. Discussions will likely continue at next week's regularly scheduled meeting. Meanwhile, Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan will be in contact with individual town departments to see if and where they are willing to make sacrifices.
One idea mentioned was to dip into the town's stabilization fund, which holds approximately $1,086,000, to supplement money for the deficit. However, there were concerns about the impermanence of the solution. The "rainy-day fund," as Sheehan referred to it, would only help to remedy the deficit for this fiscal year, but the school budget is an annual expense. In addition, taking too much money from the fund would negatively impact the town's bond rating.
Chairman Nick Thalheimer said he would only like to use the stabilization fund as a last resort.
"My general theory is you don't want to balance a budget with non-reoccurring funds," he said. "You're just kicking a can down the street."
Lt. David Profit of the Townsend Police Department suggested that selectmen could look at it as a one-time option for this fiscal year while they decide on a more permanent solution for fiscal 2014. He was
"We do have to get creative," he said. "But we need some time to get creative."
Andrea Wood, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, had concerns on the opposite end of the spectrum.
"We're going to get deeper and deeper and deeper in the hole if we use non-reoccuring funds for reoccurring expenses," she said.
Other options on the table include cutting departmental budgets, increasing town fees, reducing hours at Town Hall and creating a pay-as-you-throw trash removal service, but selectmen agreed to discuss nearly all their options before making any decisions. As of the meeting, none of the selectmen were interested in the idea of having another Proposition 2 1/2 override election.
Selectman Robert Plamondon said he was "dead-set" against another election.
He said the town was in its current situation, "because that's the decision of the voters and we need to act in a manner consistent with that ... You don't keep running elections until you get the results you want."
Selectmen Sue Lisio said she also wasn't in support of another override election. She said some residents who voted against the override might not have understood the ramifications, but now they need to live with it.
"There's a part of me that says that (cutting budgets) is the consequence for your actions and ignorance of the political system ... there is no excuse for it. I'm not bashful at all about cutting ... Nothing's off the table as far as I'm concerned," she said.
Sheehan said the town needed to have a balanced budget by December in order to set a tax rate; he suggested having something in place by late October.
But the sooner the better, agreed the selectmen.
"The deficit isn't going to go away until we attack it ... the longer we postpone it, the worse shape we're going to be in," said Lisio.