Selectmen Want Delegation To Fight Gov.'s Local Aid Cuts

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Gov. Deval Patrick is looking to reduce unrestricted local state aid.
Gov. Deval Patrick is looking to reduce unrestricted local state aid. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck (file)

SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Town officials are gauging the impact Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed cuts to local aid would have on Shrewsbury.

The governor is proposing a 1 percent reduction in unrestricted aid to local municipalities, which would affect Shrewsbury to the tune of $24,000.

Selectmen on Dec. 11 voted to send a letter to Rep. Matthew Beaton (R-Shrewsbury) and Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury) stating the town's opposition to the plan.

Town Manager Dan Morgado said Patrick cannot cut unrestricted aid "unilaterally," without legislative approval, unlike recent cuts made to school transportation for which the governor invoked powers under a balanced-budget statute known as 9C.

The cuts would be applicable to the town's current budget – not fiscal year 2014 – and are not without precedent. Patrick made such cuts earlier in his administration, and so did former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Of perhaps greater concern are the cuts Patrick has already made, including a 5 percent reduction in state reimbursement for high-cost students, which means Shrewsbury stands to lose $175,000 for fiscal year 2014.

Selectman John I. Lebeaux said those cuts will have a greater impact than what the governor is now proposing. "The one percent we can absorb," he said, "but let's not forget that unrestricted municipal aid has already been cut 32 percent from 2009 levels."

Selectman Moira Miller called the transportation cuts "significant," and complained that the state continues to impose mandates on communities without providing funding.

According to legislative aid Phu Mai, Beaton is opposed to the cuts.

"He believes that there are other areas in state government that should be looked at for cuts before even considering local aid and funding for special education," Mai said. "Local aid and education funding should always be looked at last, not first, when talking about budget cuts.

Mai said Beaton will work with Republicans and Democrats during the January legislative session to craft a budget that will protect local aid and special education funding, while trimming other areas in state government.

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