NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Though Northborough is expected to see a slight increase in local aid under Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, Town Administrator John Coderre told selectmen Monday night that the amount was "negligible."
Patrick's proposed budget, released on Jan. 24, totals $34.8 billion—a 6.9 percent increase.
"It appears under the Governor's proposal that local aid to the town of Northborough will increase slightly by $85,000," Coderre said. This includes an increase in Chapter 70 funding for education and level-funding for unrestricted government aid.
Coderre added, however, that state assessments have also increased. "It's really the net effect of those two things that ultimately determines if you are better off than the previous year," he said. These include charges for charter schools, mosquito control and the MBTA—which Northborough must pay because it borders towns with commuter rail stops. All told, Coderre said the town is left with a $30,000 net increase in the proposed budget.
But Coderre warned selectmen that a lot can still change. "State aid can swing hundreds of thousands of dollars between now and when the House and the Senate get through," he said.
Patrick's budget is hinged upon the approval of several changes to the state's tax code, including an increase to the state income tax, a cut to the state sales tax and the addition of sales taxes on candy and soft drinks. Coderre said similar proposals have come up before, only to be rejected by the state legislature.
"That leaves all of the municipalities and the school districts in a little bit of a strange position," he said. "Unfortunately, the trend that we've seen over the past five years is that the information just comes later and later."
The best course of action, Coderre said, would be to assume that local aid would be level funded for budgeting purposes.
"That's why we're so conservative when we do the budgeting," Selectman Jeff Amberson said. "It's easier on residents for taxes to be lower than expected, rather than higher."