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Town preparing for reductions to state aid

Date: 1/31/2011

Jan. 31, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — With state aid to municipal governments expected to be cut after Gov. Deval Patrick said on Jan. 22 he will propose to slash the account by 7 percent, the Board of Selectmen are confident in the town's ability to properly prepare for any shortcomings.

According to Patrick, his anticipated proposal will subtract $65 million in aid, statewide.

Selectman James Driscoll said the board, along with the town's appropriations committee, has already been working on budget plans that address different scenarios based on theoretical amounts of state aid the town receives.

"Unfortunately, we've had to deal with this over the past few years. We've started the budget process over a month ago," Driscoll said. "We're preparing different scenarios that address different reduction levels so that the heads of each [town] department at least have an idea of where cuts might be. The appropriations committee has worked very hard to plan for best-case and worst-case scenarios."

While cuts are expected, Driscoll assured residents that those reductions will not affect departments such as police and fire.

"Public safety is not anywhere on that list," Driscoll asserted.

In response to an anonymous letter to the board, dated Jan. 7, which implored the board to explore the Local Option Tax Amnesty Plan, Driscoll said implementing such a plan was not a necessary step.

The Local Option Tax Amnesty Plan offers taxpayers who owe back taxes a two-month window in which it can pay its outstanding debt without having to incur penalties.

The anonymous letter writer suggested that this could be a means for the town improve its financial standing.

"Enhancing our reputation, helping our citizens and increased revenue in our coffers now are just a few of the reasons to go forward," the letter read.

However, according to Driscoll, the board already considered the plan and it was determined that it would not be beneficial to the town.

"The board looked into that four years ago when Springfield went with this kind of plan," Driscoll said. "We determined that the town's collection percentage is so high, it's not worth offering deals to those who owe taxes. The town has done a very good job in working with those who have outstanding taxes and [town collector] Tom Florence has done a spectacular job in seeing to that."

Driscoll concluded by saying that the town has looked into any possible way to increase its income in a feasible manner.

"There's no pile of money lying around that we haven't found," Driscoll said.

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