Southborough Wicked Local reported on two stories that effect Southborough tax payers this week.
On Tuesday, selectmen got a preview of the Town budget for the next fiscal year. As it currently stands, the $4.81 million budget would result in a 5.4% property tax increase.
That’s something selectmen are seeking to avoid. SWL reports:
“officials say the budget is likely to undergo changes in the coming weeks.
Local aid is still unsettled, especially with a new governor due to be sworn in next month, said Finance Director Brian Ballantine.
He said local aid accounts for 6.2 percent of total revenues, so any increase or decrease by the state could result in the projected tax increase moving up or down. Post-retiree health insurance remains a significant part of the budget, he said, signaling a need to make management of health costs a priority.
“I would like to see a level-service funded budget,” said board member Bonnie Phaneuf . . .
“I don’t want our public safety departments to come up with a level-[dollar]* budget, when we know that there are already deficits,” said Selectman John Rooney.
He said he would not be in favor of the projected tax increase and would not support it at Town Meeting.
Purple said rather than drafting level-service budgets, he prefers a system where the budget is deconstructed to zero and then built back up again. (read more)
In other fiscal news, the Regional School Committee is joining a fight against the state’s regional busing budget cuts.
What was seen as a budget boon earlier this fall was pulled back by Governor Deval Patrick last month.
At a past Regional School Committee meeting, members had lamented the low funding for busing. They noted that when the state was pushing for the district and other towns to establish their regional schools, they promised 100% transportation reimbursements.
Over time, the budgets had been cut significantly. The committee agreed on pushing for increased transportation funding as one of their legislative priorities.
In September, Superintendent Christine Johnson was pleased to share that the 2015 state budget included an increase in funding for regional transportation. The reimbursement would be for 90% of the expense. They were suddenly looking at an increase of about $200,000 in reimbursements.
According to SWL, Governor Patrick cut that increase back to the same level funding as the previous year. It was part of an effort to “close a projected $329 million budget gap for the current fiscal year”.
The Regional School Committee is now banding with other school districts in battling the cut. SWL reports:
Committee members voted Wednesday to chip in $500 toward a legal fund established by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools to research the legality of Patrick’s mid-year budget cut. . .
The annual budget of the Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee doesn’t rely on regional transportation funding, but having the money could provide a significant boost for the district in fiscal 2016, superintendent Christine M. Johnson said.
“This is a big deal for us,” said school committee member Paul Butka, who motioned to support the legal effort. While Northborough and Southborough aren’t facing a budget shortfall because of the governor’s decision, other regional school districts are counting on the money for the remainder of the school year, Butka said. Setting aside a few hundred dollars now to potentially reclaim tens of thousands of dollars for the district in the future is money “well-spent,” he said.
Patrick is also facing pressure from a host of lawmakers to reverse his decision. Seventeen senators and 63 state representatives signed a letter calling on the governor to restore the funding. (read more)
Updated (12/23/14 10:57 am): A commenter questioned accuracy of SWL quotes. I found that two were incaccurate.
I removed a quote on the school budget. Although Town Administrator Mark Purple was quoted as saying that we’re down a little in students which improves our numbers – he was referring specifically to the budget for Assabet. He didn’t clarify where we stand in the number of students or the budget for K-8 or Algonquin.
I changed the quote from John Rooney. He was quoted by SWL as saying “level-service” when in fact he said “level-dollar”.