Lawmakers: Don't Plan On State Aid Increasing
Three of the four members of the town's legislative delegation urged Framingham officials to budget conservatively.
State lawmakers told Framingham officials not to count on sizeable increases in state aid as they prepare next year's budget, but expressed optimism that state education funding at least would continue to climb.
"If I were a prudent fiscal manager in your shoes, I would not plan on an increase in state aid," Rep. Thomas P. Conroy (D-Wayland) told Framingham Selectmen Tuesday night.
Conroy, whose district includes the Saxonville section of Framingham, said budgetmakers used a one-time windfall of more than $500 million to balance this year's budget. "That hole will have to be addressed again."
"That is not what we wanted to hear," said Selectmen Chair Charles Sisitsky.
Earlier this month, Town Manager Bob Halpin unveiled a $236 million budget that makes investments in police staffing, technology, school safety and other areas.
Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley said Tuesday night current numbers are within the range of assumptions used to develop that budget.
Framingham is facing the same budget conundrum many communities deal with each Spring, as many Town Meetings take place well before a state budget is finalized.
Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland), who represents one-third of Framingham's 18 precincts, suggested the town use House budget to be released on April 10 as a guidepost, but added that "significant uncertainty" remains in light of Gov. Patrick proposed major changes to the tax code, including elimination of deductions and a decrease in the state sales tax, as well as potential lingering impacts of the Federal sequester.
"These things will make a difference in how all the numbers work out," he said.
Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said Framingham has seen education state aid increase more than 300 percent in recent years - from $8 million in 2005 to more than $28 million this year - and should still see a considerable increase in the coming budget cycle.
Sen Spilka, whose district includes Framingham, said the Town of Framingham could be designated a high-growth district because of its shift to full-day kindergarten, which will bring the equivalent of 300 new students into the system.
Lawmakers also said it remains unclear how much of Gov. Deval Patrick's ambitious $2 billion revenue package will be approved by the legislature to address areas of transportation and education.
On the topic of a broad-sweeping transportation reform package proposed by the governor, Framingham Selectmen urged lawmakers to insist that benefits be equitably shared across the state, and where possible that additional revenues be earmarked to stay int he region where they are generated.
"It seems in the past that a lot of the project money is funneled into the urban areas," said Selectman Dennis Giombetti. "We need an approach that shares more money back to the regions in an equitable way."