By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Northborough – Like every community across the commonwealth, Northborough is facing issues related to taxes, growth and infrastructure needs. At the March 26 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, Town Administrator John Coderre and the board had a chance to share some of those concerns with the town's state legislators.
State Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, state Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, state Rep. Steven Levy, R-Marlborough, and Susan Templeton, chief of staff for state Rep. Harold Naughton Jr., D-Clinton, appeared before the board to hear what the town's top legislative priorities were for fiscal year (FY) 2013. (Levy is not yet representing Northborough, but will if he is re-elected in November due to the state legislative redistricting. Templeton appeared on behalf of Naughton, who is currently serving in the United States Army Reserve in Afghanistan.)
The town's top two priorities, Coderre said, were restoration of the so-called “circuit breaker” funds, which are monies for special education students and the reauthorization of Chapter 90 funds, which are state monies for repair and maintenance of local roads and bridges.
Regarding the circuit breaker funds, Coderre noted that the state target is 75 percent reimbursement to towns for special education costs. But cuts in FY 2010 and 2011 resulted in reimbursements in the 40 to 45 percent range. Federal stimulus funds helped to offset the loss, but with those funds no longer available, the town is facing a projected 50 to 60 percent gap for FY 2013, he added.
“Special education costs can drop in at the eleventh hour,” he said, “undoing a budget that has been perhaps eight months in the making.”
Additionally, special education transportation strains a community's school budget, he said.
Restoring Chapter 90 funds was also critical, he noted, not only in Northborough but in all municipalities throughout the commonwealth. This year, the distribution is allocated for $200 million to be shared across the state; Northborough supports the Massachusetts Municipal Association's request to increase that to $300 million, he added.
The legislators noted that while they understood the request to bump up Chapter 90 funds, it was unlikely to happen. They added that while they agreed with the logic behind the town's legislative priorities, nothing could be promised at this point as things were still financially uncertain on Beacon Hill as the House and Senate attempt to create their respective budgets.