TOWNSEND -- The veterans' agent does not have enough money left in the budget to cover costs until the end of the fiscal year.
Under Massachusetts General Law, towns are required to provide funds for poverty-stricken veterans, Veterans' Agent Joe Mazzola said. Once the money is spent, 75 percent is returned to the town from the state the next year.
Last year, he did not spend his entire budget and returned $10,032 to the general fund. His original budget was $33,981.
Because of the returned funds, the town administrator cut the veterans' agent budget to $27,500 for fiscal 2013, Chairwoman Andrea Wood wrote in a document explaining the request that she distributed at a December Finance Committee meeting.
Even without the budget reduction, he would not have had enough money to reach May, she wrote.
The change was based on a downward trend. "I spoke to Joe Mazzola at that time (who) agreed with the trend and didn't express any concerns to me," Town Administrator Andy Sheehan wrote in a follow-up email.
"A lot of things impact claims activity but the two biggest are active duty military personnel coming home from oversees and the economy. If they are unemployed, they qualify for a larger veterans benefit. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but at the time the decision was sound and I won't second guess my decision," he wrote.
"They should appropriate the same amount as the last year plus a cost-of-living allowance," Mazzola said during the meeting.
"When spring meeting was here I should have put my own motion on the floor. With 700 veterans in this town, I know I'll get the votes," he said.
The veterans using the assistance need it to live.
"You're talking about veterans with zero. They are poverty. They don't know where their next meal is coming from," he said.
Job loss is one factor making budget planning difficult. Mazzola does not know how many veterans might move to town and require assistance.
If unemployment benefits are not extended, more veterans and their families might need help, he said,
"I don't have a crystal ball," Mazzola said.
The number of people receiving financial aid has risen. The total number of recipients is nine, though it was previously three.
"All of a sudden I get an influx of people ... then I have to expend the money. That's the way it is," he said.
Individual needs are greater this year.
"People are coming in this year requiring larger amounts of money," Mazzola said.
The reserve fund had only $26,200 when Mazzola made his request for $18,572.
The fire chief has said he may have some expenses coming up, Wood said.
Some of the money might be needed for winter operations, member Carolyn Smart said.
The Finance Committee agreed to transfer $12,252 from the reserve account.
The money he has remaining in the account along with the new money should bring him through March, Mazzola said.
The Finance Committee requested an update in February.
If the reserve fund is used up, the selectmen will need to call a special Town Meeting, Smart said.