Shirley Veteran's Agent Mike Detillion told members of the Finance Committee that the cost of veteran services has gone up about 100 percent from last year. That amounts to an additional $31,000 between February and the end of the year.
"It is a sign of the times," he said, adding that veterans are now coming in for more services. He stated that the total expenses for the year are about $65,500.
Detillion said currently there are 11 Shirley veterans receiving Chapter 115 (of Massachusetts General Laws) assistance.
Ch. 115 is a financial assistance program geared toward veterans and their families in times of need or unemployment.
"On the $65,500, we will recover 75 percent reimbursement, so the cost to the town is about $16,400," he said.
Finance Committee Chairman Frank Kolarik said the committee would "plug that into our fiscal 2013 budget."
"I don't see it getting any better," Detillion responded.
"We need to find the funds by the end of the year," said town accountant Bobbi Jo Colburn. "We are running a deficit now."
As part of the Finance Committee's budget discussion with Rep. Jen Benson and Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education School Finance Programs Administrator Roger Hatch, Finance Committee Vice Chairman Mike Swanton suggested that the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District is "sort of taking it on the chin" by having to spend an additional $500,000 in out-of-district placement special-education funds in fiscal 2013.
"If one or two children move into the town with these needs, it is sort of a budget breaker ... Part of the problem is this very low number," he said.
"Don't forget that we have a circuit breaker budget that is very generous," Hatch replied.
"It could have been funded a little more generously to help us cover these extraordinary costs," Swanton countered. "If we have to spend it there, we cannot spend it someplace else."
"The circuit breaker is also very unpredictable," added Kolarik.
The governor's fiscal 2014 budget proposal calculates out-of-district special education at $35,000 per year, an increase of $25,000 per year in prior years. This is the same level as in fiscal 2013; however, in fiscal 2013, the circuit breaker was cut mid-year, resulting in a lower reimbursement rate for school districts.
"It has changed in the past very dramatically," said Benson, who added that she is happy that the state is now looking at some of the costs built into the special-education formula, particularly with the increase in students identified with autism and other disabilities.
She said the state is also taking a closer look at how educational collaboratives can provide many special-education services for regions.
Kolarik said the Board of Selectmen has requested $15,000 over the $25,000 budgeted for town legal expenses in fiscal 2013.
Selectmen David Swain and Kendra Dumont met briefly at 6:30 p.m. to announce that they were going into executive session to discuss legal matters.
-- DINA SAMFIELD