With Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent announcement of budget cuts if the fiscal cliff falls and the consequences of the country going over the fiscal cliff looming over municipal governments like Mansfield, the town’s budget problems could get even worse.
“Most economists say that if [Democrats and Republicans] don’t get past this fiscal cliff will result in a second recession,” Mansfield town manager William Ross said.
Ross said that the cuts wouldn’t be that bad, [Gov. Patrick’s plan would’ve only taken $18,000] but he said it become more and more difficult to keep services on both the town and school side with increased in unfunded mandates.
“The revenue streams and assistance are being cut and reduced and the mandates continue to flow,” he said. “This is the ultimate form of taxation without representation by directing what services we have to have and making us pay for it… I think some tea went in the harbor a few years ago about that.”
State and federal unfunded mandates are essentially directives in local town, city and school services that have to be followed in order to receive funding from those government bodies.
Selectman Jess Aptowitz said that the town is already doing more with less funding, and that something should be done on a local level concerning these mandates.
“The bottom line is we have to deal with what we have to deal with but there’s only so much money in the pot. The five of us aren’t going to tell Deval Patrick what to do. We’ve got to start getting them in here.”
Ross said that a second recession would be very bad for many municipalities; he said some still haven’t fully recovered from the last one and reserves are currently tight in many Massachusetts towns. He added that some towns may have to file for bankruptcy.
“I don’t think Mansfield is in a significant problem as others,” he said. “We would be affected. Those [towns] that are in the most trouble get the most help.”
Two of the major issues Ross said could affect the town are Medicaid and veterans services. He said there will be increased need for veterans services as more and more veterans are coming home.
“If we see a reduction, it’s my belief that much of that will turn back to the towns and municipalities,” he said.
Ross said that Medicaid cuts could be significant for Mansfield as well because of the fact that the town, by overall population, is getting older.
“Medicaid will fall even more on the state and the state will be forced to find other cuts to balance it’s budget,” he said. “Local aid for towns and schools will be something that the state will look to for cutting.”