By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Northborough’s legislative delegation appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their March 11 meeting to discuss priorities. Present were State Representative Harold P. Naughton (D-Clinton), State Senator Harriette Chandler (D-1st Worcester), and State Representative Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough).
“The last couple of years the priorities have not changed. We are still seeking additional Chapter 90 money, additional circuit breaker special education funding and we would love to see some OPEB reform,” Town Administrator John Coderre stated.
The bulk of the discussion centered on Chapter 70 reforms. Coderre noted legislation currently before the legislature which includes the Promise Act, the Governor’s Bill and House Bill 3195. He is hopeful that there will be some action this session relevant to Chapter 70 reform.
Representative Naughton said that with all three bills before the legislature, there is improvement in the level of funding for the circuit breaker costs with a formula that is more realistic for the needs of the towns.
“Long term, the real solutions to these issues is revenue and we are going to have to have some very, very difficult discussions on a statewide level…We tried to do it with the gas tax and we were crucified for it and it was pulled back at the ballot,” Naughton stated.
Gregoire added her concerns about the formula as it relates to low-income communities and how the Charter School funding formula is calculated.
“We need revenue to make these things happen and with the kind of investment that we are talking about we are talking about revenue whether it’s another amount on the sales tax or somewhere…We have to get creative because it’s not just a matter of moving money around,” she noted.
“We should not be doing anything without having a sustained revenue source attached to it. Unfunded mandates, as you so rightly agree, they’re bad,” added Chandler.
Coderre said that his primary concern is that without new revenue sources that the funds have to come from somewhere and that other programs important to Northborough, such as fire and police, would be affected.
Naughton said that the time has come to raise revenue which means taxes.
Chandler pushed Coderre and the board for their support of a tax increase.
“What we are concerned with is the same thing that you are which is how it’s going to be funded so when you tell us how it’s going to be funded and implemented then we can tell you how we can support it,” Coderre said.
“My job for the Board of Selectmen is to research issues and problems and opportunities and to frame them up and to make a recommendation. That’s your job. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but that’s the legislature’s job so come up with something and propose it and then we can comment on it but I don’t think it is fair to ask us to solve the state’s problems,” Coderre further stated.
“I think we’d all like to work with you but we want to know what we are working with,” Board Chair Dawn Rand said. “Like you, the town doesn’t have unlimited funds either. We are looking for revenue, too, and unfortunately for taxpayers in Northborough, it ends up being an increase in property tax.”