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Lyons Listens To Selectmen's Concerns, Pledges To Address Issues On Beacon Hill

Mar 16, 2015 06:32PM ● By Bill Gilman

State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, speaks with the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen.

State aid, transportation funding and reimbursement for emergency responses to Tewksbury Hospital were among the topics raised by the Board of Selectmen during a recent meeting with state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.
The meeting came four weeks after a similar conversation with state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, and is part of an ongoing effort by the board to improve lines of communication with Tewksbury's legislative delegation.
Lyons brought with him good news for Tewksbury regarding Gov. Charlie Baker's $38 Billion State Budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016.
Lyons said the budget includes, "an increase in unrestricted local aid funding by 3.6 percent, which is 75 percent of tax revenue growth and an increase in Chapter 70 funding for local schools by $105.3 million (across the state.)"
For Tewksbury, this means a projected increase in unrestricted local aid of $89,158 to $2,565,783; and an increase of $72,700 to $12,800,115 in Ch. 70 education funds.
""It's refreshing to see (the) local aid proposed is in a positive state by the governor," said Board Chairman Todd Johnson.
Lyons said that to fund the increases in local aid, Baker has reduced the gross spending increase projected for MassHealth from 15.7 percent in FY 2015 to 5.6 percent in FY 2016. According to Lyons, MassHealth makes up a full one-third of the State Budget. He said the governor all MassHealth recipients to re-register for the program to re-determine eligibility. He said an estimated $250 million per year is spent on benefits for people who are do not qualify.
"I feel 
pretty good about (the budget) right now," Lyons said. "How it develops in April and May i don't know."
While the local aid news was positive, the board did have several concerns regarding state funding that they asked Lyons to help them with.
Topping the list was funding for Route 38 improvements contained in a Transportation Bond Bill. While the projects in the bill were approved by the legislature, the funding to pay for them has not yet been released. Lyons said he and Miceli have a meeting scheduled with the administration regarding the matter.
"We intend to meet with the administration on a regular basis to get as much as we can and get this project off the ground," he said.
Johnson also brought up the issue of reimbursement to the town for the cost of ambulance, fire and police calls to Tewksbury Hospital. Between manpower and direct costs for equipment and supplies, emergency calls from the hospital cost the town tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Lyons, as Miceli before him, said he agreed the town deserved some time of reimbursement. He requested the town forward him the specific annual figures on those expenses.
"think it's a valid request. it's an expense not every community has." he said.
Lyons said Baker is stetting aside money in the budget for grants for communities with specific requests. He said that could be an excellent source for the reimbursement.

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