$8.7M complex tops warrant; $9.3M budget also goes to voters at town meeting.

Byline: Richard J. Hafey

PAXTON - Voters will tackle a $9.3 million budget, an increase of $673,602 (7.79 percent) and 23 warrant articles at the annual town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Zecco Auditorium at Anna Maria College.

The warrant includes two major items - $8.7 million for a new public safety complex and upgrading the town's ambulance to 24-hour service daily, and a $4.8 million school budget.

However, there is a possibility that action on the school budget will be put off until June when state aid figures and the Wachusett Regional School District's final assessments are expected to be available.

Town Administrator Charles T. Blanchard suggested the possibility of a delay to the Board of Selectmen Monday night, noting it will be considered at a meeting of regional selectmen at 5 p.m. today in the Holden Senior Center.

Earlier this week, School Superintendent Thomas G. Pandiscio said, "I think we'll meet their numbers. We just can't meet them now." He said he doubts the state will provide firm reimbursement numbers until June.

The school budget conflict concerns the amount the town (and the other four towns in the district) are being assessed by the school district under the regional agreement.

The total Wachusett budget set by the Finance Committee on the warrant for Paxton is $4,600,074, an increase of $295,253. Most of that represents fixed charges.

The disputed amount is $676,127, which the school district has requested.

The Finance Committee has recommended $408,691. In their initial budget discussions, selectmen set the amount at $265,424 and have since stuck by that figure.

Selectmen from the other Wachusett towns - Holden, Princeton, Rutland and Sterling - also have protested the Wachusett figure, along with Paxton.

It would not be the first time in recent years that action on the school budget has been deferred. On at least two occasions, the budget was not passed until the fall.

The public safety complex, which will be the subject of an informational hearing at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Zecco Auditorium at Anna Maria College, is contingent upon approval at town meeting and a debt exclusion vote at the town election May 14.

If approved, the final project design is expected to be completed by fall, would go out to bid in early 2008 and be completed by late summer 2009.

It calls for replacing both the police station on West Street and the fire station on Pleasant Street with a single building on the fire station site.


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