Southborough town officials ask schools to make cuts
Southborough – After paring the town budget once again at its regular meeting March 15, the Board of Selectmen will look to the school departments to cut a total of $570,000 from their budgets.
Even if those reductions are reached, residents will still see a 2 percent increase in their taxes, the board said.
School departments include the Southborough kindergarten to Grade 8 district and the Algonquin Regional High School district.
The schools make up about 67 percent or $20 million, and town departments make up approximately 33 percent or $9 million of Southborough’s budget. The budget and 33 other warrant articles will be decided at the Annual Town Meeting Monday, April 11.
Still waiting to be resolved are all town union contracts, including police, fire, service employees, Department of Public Works and teachers. Selectmen Chair William Boland and Town Manager Jean Kitchen are negotiating those contracts on behalf of the town.
“No union contracts are in effect for the town or schools at this time,” Boland said.
Retirees of the town will also pay more for their health care premiums. Beginning Friday, July 1, retirees will have to pay 25 percent of the cost of their health care bill. It currently stands at 20 percent.
Boland and Selectman John Rooney both voted in favor of the increase, but decided against a mandatory requirement that retirees be part of Medicare’s insurance plan. While it may have been in the best interest of the town financially the selectmen didn’t want to have its retirees get hit with additional potential increases to their health care bill. Boland said the state Legislature is considering a mandate to make all former municipal workers sign on with the Medicare plan, if they meet the state’s credit requirements for retirement.
“The timing is not right. We’re already certain that we’re going to have a tax increase this year,” Rooney said. “We cannot impose an additional fee to those who are now on fixed incomes and to those who built this town.”
Framingham, Marlborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough have previously agreed to require retirees to go the Medicare route.
In other business, Rooney told State Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, and State representatives Steven Levy, R-Marlborough, and Carolyn C. Dykema, D-Holliston, that he would like to see legislation introduced to tax residential properties on private school campuses, in a reference to St. Mark’s School and the Fay School.
Rooney said those properties have long enjoyed tax-free living at a time of reduced services for everyone else who has property in town.
“It’s time that something is done to reverse this,” he said.
In discussing the overall budgeting process at the local and state levels, Levy said, “The Legislature has to look at how we can provide future local aid and services to cities and towns. We had $2 billion in a rainy-day fund for the state, and obviously that wasn’t enough.”
Dykema said these concerns [budgets, health care costs and other reforms] are shared by other towns across the state.
“We should start conversations now about these ideas,” she added.
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