In anticipation of the “fiscal cliff” combined with projected tax revenues that are more than half a billion dollars lower than previously expected, Gov. Deval Patrick released a revised budget designed to deal with the gap Tuesday.
Among the items being proposed is an across-the-board 1 percent cut to towns and cities in Massachusetts — or $9 million — in the current fiscal year's local aid package.
This cut would need legislative approval. Additional lottery proceeds could make the reduction unnecessary.
There is no definitive timeframe for action on the local aid reduction legislation. Still, many in the House eye such cuts as a last resort.
“I will join my colleagues in reviewing the proposal filed by the Governor yesterday and discuss the impact of the cuts with stakeholders in my communities and across the state,” said Representative Lori A. Ehrlich (D-Marblehead). “As we look at where cuts are necessary local aid should be held harmless as long as possible and be the last item reduced.”
Under the plan, all communities would receive reductions.
Swampscott Town Administrator Tom Younger says the 1 percent reduction would mean a reduction of slightly less than $11,000 for Swampscott.
If the cut is approved the town will have to delay action on an item or project for which it had budgeted, he said.
The $11,000 is important, but Younger wonders if it is a precursor to additional reductions during the year if revenues do not turn around.
No cuts to Chapter 70 (eduction) Funding are being proposed but there are education related reductions looming that could impact Swampscott, Younger said.
A 4.5 percent reduction in the special education circuit breaker could mean less reimbursement, $28,710, for Swampscott.
There are other possible education reductions — representing about $4,000 less for Swampscott —being bandied about as part of the remedy for the state's fiscal hardship.
On Tuesday, Younger and School Superintendent Lynne Celli and School Business Manager Ed Cronin estimated the possible cost that these reductions would pose to Swampscott.
Meanwhile, the state is now expecting to bring in roughly 21.5 billion in tax revenue, and Patrick's plan to bridge the gap between this amount and the $22 billion originally expected stresses budgetary reductions and no cuts in education funding.
"The governor’s proposed plan ensures virtually all impacted programs and services will receive no less funding than last year and that no cuts will be made to Chapter 70 education funding," an administration press release stated.
In summary, the governor plans to balance the budget with the following reductions:
- $225 million in spending reductions through cuts in Executive Branch agencies. Combined with hiring controls the administration imposed in October, the total state workforce will have more than 6,000 fewer positions at the end of fiscal year 2013 than it did before the recession. A number of new investments for projects and programs in FY13 have been also been reduced or eliminated, including limiting new or restored funding for investments across a range of government services.
- $200 million from the Rainy Day Fund, bringing the total draw to $550 million in FY13 – leaving a balance of $1.2 billion, one of the highest in the country.
- $98 million in additional federal revenues in support of safety net programs operated by the state on behalf low-income residents.
- $25 million from a 1 percent reduction in the budgets of the Judiciary, Constitutional Officers and other non-executive departments.
- $20 million from a total of $113 million in savings in state borrowing and health care reform costs. The remainder of this funding will be used to offset some unavoidable deficiencies which must be funded this fiscal year.
- $20 million from a reduction in the amount of sales tax revenues that will automatically be transferred to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to support local school building costs.
- $11 million from certain reserve fund surpluses.
- $9 million from a 1 percent across-the-board reduction to unrestricted local aid. The governor has filed legislation that ensures if lottery profits exceed the $1.026 billion amount currently budgeted in FY13, all of such excess proceeds be committed to increasing the amount of unrestricted local aid.