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Legislative Liaison Committee meets with local reps

Westborough – The town’s legislative liaison committee commanded the ear of state legislators that count the commonwealth’s 100th town among its constituency; now only time will tell if anything productive will come of it.

“It was good to sit down face-to-face and lay out our issues and let them know how we feel about them,” Selectman Lydia Goldblatt said after the meeting. “As the local legislators walk away from this meeting, I think it’s clear to them what our priorities are as a town and why they are our priorities. It gets everything on the record, so there’s no chance for any of them to claim they didn’t know our stance on something further down the road.”

Westborough’s legislative liaison committee consists of the Board of Selectmen – Chair Leigh Emery, Vice Chair Rod Jané, Goldblatt, George Thompson and Tim Dodd, Town Manager Jim Malloy, School Committee Chair Karen Henderson and Ian Johnson, a member of the town’s advisory Finance Committee.

Local legislators at the March 16 meeting were State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Action, and State representatives Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury, George Peterson Jr. R-Grafton, and Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston. Eldridge, who had to leave early to go to another commitment, was present for only 15 minutes of the hour-long meeting.

Topping a list of about eight items that were discussed by the two sides was the lack of local aid received by Westborough, and the process that figures out how those funds are distributed.

“Westborough is way down the list when you look at Chapter 70 funding and break it down into a per-student figure for Westborough in comparison to similar towns,” Henderson said. “There needs to be a more fair, more equitable process put in place when it comes to distributing those funds.”

Malloy said research that he has conducted leads him to believe that Westborough should receive almost $3 million more per year in Chapter 70 aid in order to align Westborough more equitably with towns to which it compares from a demographic perspective.

Both sides agreed that the funding formula is to blame and Peterson said that eff orts to re-work that formula has been passed by more pressing financial issues at the state level but that a study is currently underway looking at ways to make Chapter 70 funding more equitable for all municipalities in the commonwealth.

In regard to Westborough’s substantial decrease in Special Education circuit breaker funding, Dykema told the committee that the legislature is considering several options to reduce local Special Education costs, including creating a funding pool that would pay the cost to cover towns’ most expensive Special Needs students.

Also of particular importance to the legislative liaison committee was that local legislators support a bill currently on Beacon Hill that would give town the authority to design its own health insurance plans without local unions being able to veto those plans.

Malloy is working with local unions to change its employee health insurance plans in an effort to help the town reduce its expected deficit, but he has been slowed by the fact that a change in health coverage is covered in most unions’ collective bargaining agreement.

Malloy recently re-worked the Westborough Teachers Association health insurance costs, a move that will save the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Peterson, Polito and Dykema told the committee they supported the bill, while Eldridge said he did not, indicating that some town employees already pay too much for health care.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=6735

Posted by on Mar 26 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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