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$38.1B State Budget Includes 90K Reimbursement For Tewksbury Fire Department

Jul 09, 2015 03:03PM ● By Bill Gilman

Gov. Baker discusses the state initiative for tackling opioid addiction and abuse.

Level-funded local aid, reimbursement for the Tewksbury Fire Department and funding for the new Tewksbury High Best Buddies program are among the local highlights in the $38.1 billion Fiscal Year 2016 Budget passed by the State Legislature on Wednesday.
The budget, now on the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker, includes $12,727,415 in Ch. 70 education aid and $2,476,625 in unrestricted local aid for Tewksbury. These are the same amounts the town received in the FY 2015 Budget and exactly the figures Town Manager Richard Montuori had projected in his FY 2016 Municipal Budget.
But as important as what is included in the budget is what was left out. Gov. Baker's initial budget proposal included a $3.8 million cut in funding to Tewksbury State Hospital, which would have eliminated 48 jobs and 12 beds at the facility.
Aggressive lobbying by the Tewksbury legislative delegation of state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, and state Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, restored the funding in the final version of the budget.
"Thanks to the strong advocacy by our delegation and a commitment from our governor to work with municipalities, this budget helps Tewksbury continue its rebound from the drastic cuts in state aid of just a few years ago," said Todd Johnson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. "It importantly protects the state hospital which is so vital to our region for jobs and needed care. I am grateful to our legislators for their attention to details on our behalf and solid communication throughout the process."
One of the items selectmen had brought up in meetings with each member of the delegation was a request for reimbursement for the Tewksbury Fire Department for costs associated with its numerous ambulance and fire calls at Tewksbury State Hospital. As a result, the state budget includes $90,000 in reimbursement for the TFD.
The budget also includes $20,000 for the fledgling Best Budies program at Tewksbury High School. Best Buddies connects special education students with TMHS sports teams for recreational activities, mentoring and social interaction.
Another $20,000 is earmarked for Tewksbury's Camp Poehelo, a long-running summer camp program for special education students.
The $38.1 billion bottom line represents a 3.5 percent increase in state spending over Fiscal Year 2015. The Tewksbury delegation unanimously supported the budget and for Lyons, the occasion marked the first time he had voted in favor of a state budget since being elected in 2010.
"Today, our Commonwealth took a huge step towards important fiscal reforms for which we have been calling for the last several years. After eight years of reckless spending by the Patrick administration, the House and Senate passed Gov. Baker's first budget, a budget that has followed through on his promise to bring fiscal responsibility back to state spending," said Lyons. "At the same time, Gov. Baker kept his promise to protect the local aid funding upon which our communities depend ... (this) is a vote I am proud to have taken."
Two of the most significant spending cuts in the budget come in the area of tourism. The State Office of Travel and Tourism will see it's budget cut by 20 percent, to 
$14,590,000. Funding for regional tourism councils will also be cut 20 percent, to $6,000,000.
The budget also features major reforms to the MBTA, which has been mired in a major fiscal crisis, amid accusations of mismanagement and lack of oversight. Among the reforms is the creation of a Finance Control Board.
The budget also includes expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for families and a five percent increase in funding to subsidize insurance premiums for employees of small businesses.

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