By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Northborough Town Administrator John Coderre led a discussion of the town’s legislative priorities at the Feb. 27 Board of Selectmen meeting, in advance of Northborough’s legislative delegation’s appearance before the board Monday, March 13. These priorities were identified by town staff and committees.
Coderre has put together a draft of these priorities that will be sent to Governor Charlie Baker and the delegation once finalized. The top three are the most important and there are several other smaller items included.
The first priority requests the governor and the legislature to increase Chapter 90 authorization from $200 to $300 million statewide.
“This is how municipalities pay for their infrastructure,” Coderre explained. “In most communities, Chapter 90 is the only money they spend on their roadways.”
Northborough has a long-term policy in place where they allow for road maintenance within their budget. Coderre calls this the “Stem the Bleed” plan where the town invests in gradual road improvements to avoid deterioration.
The town’s second top priority is an increase in circuit-breaker funding. This is a special education reimbursement program that reimburses 70 percent of the cost of special education placements that exceed a minimum threshold. The town is looking for 100-percent reimbursement.
The governor proposes level funding for FY 2018 which will necessitate cuts in services.
“Special education costs are on the rise and are outpacing regular education costs,” Coderre said.
To pay for these increases, funds are taken from the regular school budget. Coderre reported that the superintendent of schools will be addressing the board at a later date to further explain that reimbursements need to match cost increases.
The last top priority aims to ensure sustainable OPEB costs for cities and towns. OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) refers to non-pension benefits provided to retirees, primarily with regard to health insurance. Northborough’s OPEB liability is $34.9 million.
Northborough sets aside roughly half a million dollars annually. A trust fund to address this liability was created in 2011.
Coderre reported, “On our side we have a funding plan but we cannot fund our way out of this issue. It requires legislative reform to make it sustainable.”
Other legislative priorities include the opposition of unfunded mandates, as well as modernization of procurement and public construction laws, ambulance billing procedures and agricultural composting.
The board voted unanimously to accept the document which will be sent to the legislative delegation and Governor Baker prior to the board’s March 13 meeting.