By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – State representatives Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury, and Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their April 11 meeting to discuss the state budget for fiscal year 2018.
Dykema sits on the House Transportation, Energy/Telecommunications/Utilities, Healthcare, Finance, and Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities committees and reported they are working with a state revenue projection of about $27 billion which is a 3.9-percent increase over last year but does not include federal dollars.
“There is a lot of uncertainty remaining [regarding federal funding],” she said.
Two issues of difficulty that Dykema referenced were one-time revenue use and operational budgets and stabilization funds. The states drew its stabilization fund down during the economic downturn and have been trying to build that back. The target is $2 billion and they are still below that amount at $1.4 billion under the proposed budget.
Regarding local aid, the state is looking at a 2.7-percent increase and has been able to allocate
$32.5 million over Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget. Chapter 70 has always been a concern for Westborough because of underfunding due to its formula. With significant improvements this year, Westborough will see an increase in educational aid, at 33.3 percent. Local library funding is also up.
Dykema touched upon the commuter line situation and informed the board that a working group has been established to look at issues. She also mentioned the Suburban Edge Commission which looks at equity of resources.
Kane informed the board of her committee assignments which include: the House Transportation, Public Health and Marijuana Policy committees. She drew the board’s attention to the pressures that municipalities are under to contain healthcare costs.
“Seven years ago the state’s budget was comprised of about 30 percent Mass Health costs and today it’s 41 percent, when you combine Health and Human Services it’s at 55 percent,” she reported, adding “What goes on at the federal level is very important to us.”
Kane said she was pleased to have Selectman Denny Drewry, Town Manager Jim Malloy and Westborough Town Engineer Carl Balduf join her at the Statehouse recently to receive $500,000 from the first grant awarded through the Municipal Small Bridge Program which will repair the Fisher Street Bridge. Additionally, Westborough will receive, at the minimum, $783,000 in Chapter 90 funding for roads.
Kane also announced that she filed a $50,000 budget amendment for funding of Westborough’s 300th Anniversary but cautioned that the budget is very tight. She also informed the board about the great work conducted by the students on the Spring Greening Program where over 400 bags of items were collected for local children in need.
Gregoire announced that she was appointed chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs. The city of Marlborough is working toward becoming a dementia-friendly Community and Selectman George Barrette has been very helpful in getting that going. She recently attended a conference with leaders from across the country regarding age friendly communities, a movement is happening all over the commonwealth and the country.
“There are 1.4 million elders in the commonwealth and in addition to trying to help them with their issues whether its, home healthcare, adult foster care or whatever the issues may be and the multiplying factor of their family and friends that are their support system, it impacts everyone in the commonwealth,” Gregoire said.
Gregoire also reported that Westborough District Court, which had been on the “chopping block [to be closed]” is no longer on the list and she noted how important this is to the community.