By Melanie Petrucci, Senior community Reporter
Northborough – Town Administrator John Coderre welcomed Northborough’s legislative delegation who made their annual appearance to discuss legislative priorities with the Board at their meeting March 9. Education, Chapter 90 funding and state-aid remain top concerns.
Coderre introduced Senator Harriett Chandler (D-Worcester), Senator James Eldridge (D-Middlesex/Worcester), State Representative Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) and State Representative Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough).
He thanked them for supporting House Bill 4508 that would increase Chapter 90 funding from $200 million statewide to $300 million which will – at a minimum – help the town maintain its roads. Coderre is hoping for a multi-year appropriation.
“Our state aid is going up one percent, maybe two percent under the governor’s plan,” Coderre continued. “Right now our state aid is projected to go up 0.89 percent. ….. In order for us to maintain services, we need about a three and a half to four percent increase every year and state aid has been less than half of that.”
Secondary concerns include funding for environmental and climate-related infrastructure needs, sustainable OPEB costs and unfunded mandates.
He acknowledged the delegation’s continued support in sponsoring and advocating for the agricultural composting bill that will protect municipalities against large-scale agricultural composting in residential neighborhoods.
Naughton declared his support for funding projects that enhance regional transportation (shuttle and hub routes) as well as education funding, specifically referencing the Student Opportunity Act.
Gregoire added the creation of an MBTA Office of Transit and Scrutiny so that they understand needs as they make investments, e.g. available parking at commuter train stations.
She also noted that a large portion of funding for the Student Opportunity Act is intended to go to lower-end spectrum school districts that need the money. However, there will be benchmarks that need to be met in order for them to obtain the funds.
“It’s not just a freebie throwing money at a problem and I think that is really important because we’ve obviously tried that and it doesn’t always work,” Gregoire said.
Eldridge shared that funding for transportation is challenged by bond ratings.
“Until you raise more revenue, it’s harder to bond more money,” he noted.
He hopes that through the Student Opportunity Act there will be more funding for special education in the Northborough/Southborough regional schools.
Chandler added that the Student Opportunity Act was a promise to the larger cities where there are issues that towns like Northborough do not face.
She also touched on last year’s agricultural composting bill that was “snatched away” in the 11th hour, noting there is a new bill this year.
Coderre recognized Northborough/Southborough Regional Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Martineau, who noted that as superintendent he was hired to advocate for the schools to get the most that he can from the Student Opportunity Act and from the MSBA for school building projects.
“We also want to maximize funding for regional transportation because the communities of Northborough and Southborough do benefit from those dollars,” he said.