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GROTON — The Board of Selectmen and other local officials met with state representatives to discuss ongoing fiscal concerns being experienced by schools throughout the state.

On hand for the April 10 meeting were state Rep. Robert Hargraves (R-Groton) and state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), who were invited to meet with the selectmen to discuss what’s happening on Beacon Hill.

Hargraves opened by announcing that the state House of Representatives had released its proposed budget figures for fiscal year 2007. It included $939,545 for the town and $10,358,726 in aid for the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District.

Although Hargraves admitted that the total figure was slightly less than that submitted by Gov. Mitt Romney in his own budget proposal, the figure still represented an increase over 2006 spending by $750,000.

However, the figure was still only a preliminary one with more work ahead before a final state budget for 2007 is completed, he said.

For his part, Panagiotakos reminded the selectmen that revenue growth in Massachusetts has climbed only by 4.5 percent as opposed to twice that figure during the booming 1990s.

“We’re just getting back to that high water mark,” said Panagiotakos. “Jobs are just not being created.”

The news regarding state funding for schools came as somewhat of a relief to members of the School Committee, some of whom attended the hearing last week.

Panagiotakos also agreed with selectmen that the state’s education reform law has resulted in inequities in the distribution of local aid to schools.

Citing Westford and Chelmsford as examples, Panagiotakos said despite Westford’s smaller population and higher average income, it still received more aid from the state than Chelmsford. But such inequities, said the state senator, are unlikely to change as long as representatives from towns with the upper hand refuse to cooperate.

Another problem area acknowledged by Panagiotakos is that of public transportation for special education students, which he characterized as surpassing the cost of regular bussing.

“It’s getting very, very expensive, but it still should not be costing as much as it is,” said Panagiotakos. He suggested it might be worthwhile to look into having the state take over the whole special education bussing system.

“We’re struggling with the same things you are,” Panagiotakos said. “But instead of only one town, we’re dealing with 365 towns. We share your frustration.”

Another area where local representatives are struggling is with the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, said Panagiotakos.

“We want to encourage affordable housing, but at the same time we don’t want it inundating communities,” he said.

Under the law, developers are allowed to circumvent some local zoning bylaws in return for reserving at least 25 percent of their planned housing units as affordable. This sometimes results in massive construction projects that threaten to overwhelm small towns.

Although efforts have been attempted to reform the law, Panagiotakos said it was difficult to get consensus on the issue. Instead, he suggested the town might benefit from the example of others that have persuaded developers to convert condominium projects into rental units. This allows all of the apartments to be counted as affordable, greatly adding to the community’s stock of housing of which the state has demanded at least 10 percent be affordable.

Currently, only about 5 percent of Groton’s housing is rated affordable.

The reform of the Chapter 40B law is still alive in subcommittee, but that it was on oxygen, said Hargraves.

Regarding large city versus small towns, Panagiotakos said, “Trying to find a balance is difficult.”

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