GROTON — In anticipation of a Finance Committee request to trim at least $100,000 from Town Manager Mark Haddad’s budget proposal, the Board of Selectmen has called a special Thursday afternoon session to evaluate its options.
The special meeting was called on Monday, after Haddad reported that the FinCom thinks local taxpayers should get a break in the coming fiscal year and that budget cuts would be requested during a joint session on Saturday.
“I think it is a good idea for us to have a separate meeting to discuss the town managers budget, to get a sense of what the FinCom is looking for and then decide what those core issues are,” said board Chairman Peter Cunningham.
Haddad’s has proposed a municipal budget of $11,269,140 for fiscal 2011, up $192,279 (1.74 percent) from the current fiscal year. Key details include restoration of a patrolman position and level-funding the library.
While Haddad agreed to evaluate potential for other cuts in preparation for the Thursday meeting, he wasn’t advocating that course of action.
“I presented a budget that I thought was in good shape, that was balanced and meets the needs of the town,” he said. “To go deeper than that right now, I’m not sure I’d recommend that at this point.”
In a related matter, the board heard a lengthy update on the state budget from Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, who told the board the governor’s proposal to level-fund state aid for cities and towns in the coming fiscal year wasn’t likely to happen.
Explaining why, Panagiotakos said the governor’s proposal includes best-case scenarios on several sources of federal funding, along with borrowing of $350 million for the operating budget and another $150 million of new taxes — things Panagiotakos did not expect would come to happen.
“The speaker of the house has already said there will be no new taxes,” he said.
Instead, Panagiotakos noted that income and sales tax make up 80 percent of the state’s revenue, saying job creation looks like the state’s only way back from an economic downturn that saw it revenues drop from $21.4 billion to $18.9 billion in less than two years.
Panagiotakos estimated it would take at least 10 years for the commonwealth to recover from that downturn, saying officials will need to do some difficult prioritizing in the meantime.
Asked how much of a hit that local aid would take in the coming year, Panagiotakos didn’t have specifics, but he estimated cuts in the neighborhood of 5 percent. He said legislators are also working to have those figures released by the first week in March, to help local officials plan for the coming year.
Haddad’s budget proposal was built assuming a 10 percent cut in state aid, so the board did not expect Panagiotakos’ projections to create any immediate deficits.
Instead, Cunningham expected the FinCom request was more likely to drive talk of cuts in the coming days, even if he would not speculate on what the outcome of those talks would be.
“I think the FinCom when they go to Town Meeting look at it through the lens of people who are trying to be fiscally conservative and prudent as possible,” he said. “Our job is to take that into account, but also look at what core services people in town expect.”
“While I’d like to go to town meeting in agreement, we may not end up begin entirely in agreement on things,” he added.
The Selectboard meeting on Thursday will begin at 5 p.m. The Saturday joint session will begin at 9 a.m.