A week before Belmont is to begin the public process to create the fiscal 2014 town and school budget, Massachusetts Deval Patrick threw a bucket of cold reality into the mix as he announced a proposed one percent cut in local aid in the coming fiscal year to fill a $540 million state budget gap.
The proposed cuts, announced Tuesday, Dec. 4, would slash approximately $72,000 from the amount the state provided Belmont last year.
In addition to those cuts, Patrick proposed a two percent reduction in Council on Aging support which will likely impact Belmont's own council.
If Patrick's proposal is approved by the legislature, the town would see its local aid for town departments drop by $19,000 from fiscal 2013 levels.
And while Patrick's proposal does not cut education aid to cities and towns – dubbed Chapter 70 funding – it does take a real bite out of special education reimbursement to school departments, known as the state's circuit breaker, cutting $11.5 million statewide.
With the school department anticipating $1,119,257 in circuit breaker funding this year, Belmont schools would need to find $53,210 to fund the loss in state funding if the governor's nearly 5 percent reduction in the line item is sustained by the legislature.
School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Graham said the committee and the School Department only received the news a few hours before its scheduled Tuesday, Dec. 4 meeting, and it was too early to determine the impact on the coming budget process.
While the $72,000 total in cuts is hardly the slashing of local aid seen just two years ago from the Patrick administration, "it's not going in the right direction" Belmont Town Administrator David Kale told Belmont Patch before last night's precincts meeting at the Beech Street Center.
Kale said the lose of state revenue, which would be less than one percent of Belmont's nearly $74 million town and school budget from fiscal 2013 approved by Town Meeting in May, would be felt in some fashion throughout the town.
On Monday, Dec. 3, at the first of the precinct meetings, Belmont Board of Selectmen Chairman Mark Paolillo said that "the best case scenario" for state funds in the coming fiscal year "is that we will have level revenue from the previous year."
If there is some good news is that the state legislature, which would need to support Patrick's budget cuts, is seeking ways of mitigating the impact of Patrick's proposal.
In an email to town and school officials, State Sen. Will Brownsberger, whose district includes his hometown of Belmont, said there is some preliminary discussion on restoring the cut in special education and "(s)o far the legislature has not signaled an interest in granting" Patrick the authority to reduce local aid.