The Mansfield Board of Selectmen continued to debate on unfunded mandates last Wednesday in response to the hanging fiscal cliff and Gov. Deval Patrick’s responsive cuts.
Selectman Kevin Moran said that it is a problem that is continuing to spiral more and more out of the local governments’ ability to handle it.
“We’re managing a budget problem not solving it,” said Moran. “Since I’ve joined the board, the unrestricted aide has dropped 32 percent. The state is continuing to give us unfunded mandates. The truth of the matter is when there’s a one party state, constituents don’t really make politicians uncomfortable. You have to let them know that this can’t continue.”
Moran added that the Massachusetts economy in general is not doing so well in the past quarter and is down to less than 1 percent growth.
Selectmen chair Olivier Kozlowski said that he believes the town should decide what mandates to follow and which not to follow, regardless of the reduction in state aide that will cause.
“We sit here and figure out what the budget is going to be,” he said. “We need to look back and say we can’t afford to do that, even if it is unfunded mandate. Let the chips fall where they will. At the end of the day, it's people in this town that know how to serve this town.”
Selectman George Dentino said he feels that he feels that, since 80-percent of the Mansfield combined schools and municipal budgets are in personnel (salaries, benefits and raises determined by negotiations with respective unions), there may be more funds to negotiate around.
“We do have some areas where we can work on and we have to work on health insurance and pension reform,” Dentino said. “We still have to try, we still have to do the best we can. We won’t see any increase in revenues to take care of everybody in this state.”
Town manager William Ross said he agreed, and that union negotiation can free up some much-needed funds, but he had misgivings as to how far it could go.
“It’s unrealistic and extremely naïve to expect that we can negotiate and concession our way out of this,” Ross said. “If the state cannot help us, the very least it could do is not put a hose down our throats while we’re trying to survive. Until the people on Beacon Hill become as uncomfortable as local people nothing is going to happen.”