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 this week.
“The uncertainty of the fiscal cliff and the resulting slow down in growth, is the direct cause of our budget challenges,” Patrick said. “Congress and the President must come to terms on a solution so the private sector will continue to make the kind of investments that create jobs, grow state and federal tax revenue collections and contribute to a lasting economic recovery."
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.
For North Andover, while cuts to local aid may take some money from things like police training and efficiency grants (among other things), the proposed cuts may not mean any big changes for local budget plans.
"We have been tracking state revenue estimates since the new fiscal year began, and therefore the proposed cuts do not come as much of a surprise," Town Manager Andrew Maylor said. "The Town’s budget development process accounts for a reasonable amount of uncertainty and therefore, I am not recommended any changes to spending levels at this time."
In order to impact North Andover's ability to maintain services, state aid cuts would have to be much higher than the governor is proposing. That could change with the wearther, though.
"However, if the state situation worsens and/or the winter season results in significant spending on snow and ice removal costs, I may recommend steps be taken at some point in the future," he said.
In his budget forecasting and planning, Maylor has been conservative and cautious when estimating state aid and factoring it into the town's income.
Selectman Tracy Watson agrees, remaining cautiously optimistic about the town's ability to ride out the cuts.
"Right now we are sitting tight," Watson said. "Our budget for the remainder of the year usually leaves room for mid-year cuts as a safety net. However if we have a difficult winter with snow removal or the cuts are greater than expected, I would expect to see recommondations for cuts to services brought forth in a thoughtful manner by our Town Manager. My hope is we will weather this storm without having to cut services to our residents. It is something that is being closely watched by all selectmen and town management."