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Local Aid Bump Won’t Close Central Mass Budget Gaps

Thursday, April 19, 2012

 

Central Mass. towns may pick up some additional local aid funding if Beacon Hill passes the House Ways and Means Budget, but it won't come close to solving their budget woes. 

Shrewsbury Gains Most in Region, Still Short

Shrewsbury is one of the region’s biggest winners, and is looking at gaining another $376,000 in state aid. The school budget, which originally faced a budget gap of $3 million, is still short more than $800,000 and the $241,000 allocated for the school aid line item will help to close that gap.

Shrewsbury Town Manager Daniel Morgado said how the numbers are divided is not significant. “We’re just looking at the bottom line,” he said. “It’s a political decision which line item it’s being placed on.”

Additional Money Sits Well in West Boylston 

West Boylston slated to gain just over $70,000. Town Administrator Leon A. Gaumond said he thinks the town will be just fine, and that the town is in a better shape than it was before the additional revenues were announced.

“We’ve had our state aid cut or level funded in four of the last five years,” Gaumond said. “We have been faced with rising costs of health insurance and fuel, while our revenues have tanked. Any time there is an increase, it is a positive thing, and I am grateful to our House delegation for making it happen.”

Rutland Wary

The town of Rutland, which has put a $1.4 million override request on its annual town election ballot, is taking a cautious approach to the increased aid. If passed, $1.1 million will go to fund the increased school district assessment, and the remainder would be used to restore town services that have been cut in recent years and to hire a town administrator.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joseph Becker said it appears to him that the House Ways and Means committee took the last year’s supplemental local aid and added it to this year’s budget.

“While this would certainly be wonderful, members of the Senate have indicated the Senate will likely still tie that additional amount to supplemental (aid) if state revenues track ok going into the summer months. Therefore, at this time I believe Rutland is not counting on the additional local aid as seen in the HWM numbers.”

Holden, which is facing a $1.2 million deficit due to the large increase in the school budget, is looking at an additional $114,000.

The Wachusett Regional School District, which approved an $80.3 million budget on March 26, is looking at an additional $233,000 in state aid, which was originally funded at the same level as fiscal 2012. The district is in a battle with its towns over the budget, with several of the towns saying they simply cannot afford the 6 percent increase the district has requested.  Holden and Rutland are two of the five towns in the district.  

“The additional money won’t solve all our problems,” WRSD Committee Chairman Duncan Leith said. “But it’s encouraging to see.”

Leith said the school committee has postponed its meeting, originally scheduled for April 23 until April 30, so that the committee can make revisions to its budget.

“Several towns cannot afford the budget,” Leith said. “We’re going to look at reducing the budget, but we’re not going to cut to the point where we are compromising the educational value to our students.”

 

Auburn

Auburn, which has only increased its budget by half of the levy limit, will pick up an additional $100,000. 

Doreen Goodrich, chairman of the Board of Selectman said the board has not discussed how to use the additional funds, but said she would support using it for a one time project like additional road repairs or capital costs.

"Or the town manager may have some additional fuel costs we don't know about," she said.

Grafton will be picking up an additional $88,000, all of which is designated for General Government. Lucille Boutiette, assistant school superintendent, declined to comment on the budget, except to say “I know we’ve come to an agreement with the town on the budget.”

While more money is always better for the towns, the budget figures are not final numbers until both the House and Senate approve them, sometime later this spring.  Your town not listed?  Click here to go to the Mass. DOR website.

 

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