By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Local officials believe that the town can absorb potential mid-year cuts to state aid without negatively affecting the current budget.
On Nov. 19, Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans to address an anticipated budget shortfall of about $330 million in the state’s $36.5 billion budget midway through the current fiscal year. His plan includes nearly $200 million in spending cuts within the executive branch and a request to state lawmakers to reduce local aid to cities and towns by $25.5 million along with across-the-board spending cuts of 1.5 percent for most state agencies.
Both Town Administrator Bill Gustus and Tom Geary, the school department’s Director of Finance and Special Programs, told the Villager they believe that the town can absorb any potential cuts without negatively affecting the current budget.
“We have been expecting that we would receive $5,118,384 in local aid this year. The Governor has proposed cutting $25.5 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA). This represents a 2.7 percent cut in the total UGGA account. We were scheduled to receive $925,000 in UGGA this year. A 2.7 percent reduction in that account would represent a loss of approximately $25,000 to the town of Lynnfield,” Gustus said. He added, “I am confident that we can absorb such a loss in revenue through surpluses in other revenue sources. Consequently, I do not see a need to cut appropriations at all.”
“Most of the other cuts are to school grant programs and regional school issues that would not affect us at all,” Gustus said.
Similarly, Geary was confident that the town would not be seriously impacted by the proposed aid cuts. “The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has stated that as of now the cut to the Special Education circuit breaker program will be fully absorbed by them and that the amounts they have posted as reimbursements for cities and towns will not be impacted,” Geary said.
“Overall, the METCO grant was cut by 1.5 percent. It has not yet been officially announced how these cuts will be allocated to districts but assuming everyone is cut by 1.5 percent, this represents just under a $3,400 reduction, which is an amount that I feel comfortable we can absorb with other areas of savings that have been realized this year,” Geary stated.
Geary added, “The other grants and programs that have been reduced do not impact Lynnfield.”
The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) released a statement opposing the proposed cuts as soon as they were announced. The MMA stated that the state is facing a deficit that is mostly the result of administrative and budget management issues at the state level, yet the Administration’s plan would solve the state’s problem by shifting much of the burden onto communities.
“We strongly oppose this proposed local aid cut because it would destabilize municipal and school budgets in the middle of the fiscal year and force reductions in community services. Unrestricted municipal aid is already $400 million below fiscal 2009 levels and any additional cuts will be painful for cities and towns across the state,” stated MMA Executive Director Geoffrey C. Beckwith. “On behalf of communities across the Commonwealth, we respectfully ask the Legislature to reject the Governor’s proposed municipal aid cut.”