Walpole Town Administrator: Prison Mitigation Cuts 'Extremely Frustrating'
The town is set to lose $750,000 in prison mitigation funds due to the governor's cuts.
Gov. Deval Patrick last week announced plans to close a $540 million state budget deficit through a combination of cuts and transfers from the state's "rainy day" fund.
The proposed cuts, some of which require the approval of the legislature, would reduce the state's planned aid to Walpole in the current fiscal year, fiscal 2013.
In Walpole, the town's $750,000 in prison mitigation funds and anticipated $30,000 in post community program funds would be cut.
At the Walpole Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday night, Town Administrator Michael Boynton called the cuts "extremely frustrating" but said the town is not "in a catastrophic position" since the prison mitigation funds were not earmarked for the fiscal '13 operating budget.
“Four years ago this happened. It happened in 2008; we lost prison mitigation money and that time $750,000 was part of the budget and we were scrambling. We wiped out a debt stabilization fund. We had a lot of work to do to cover that gap," he said. "Here, because the $750,000 was not directly earmarked as a funding source for fiscal ’13, we don’t have that immediate hole to fill. However, that’s $750,000 that’s not available for capital projects, special projects, debt offset. No matter what you want to look at that’s a $750,000 hit for the town of Walpole and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating that it happened again.”
“While we have a cushion, so to speak - in terms of what’s available in the debt budget - make no mistake about it, a loss of that revenue puts into jeopardy the actual funding of a new facility such as the senior center. That’s a major hit," he said.
Boynton said the loss of the prison mitigation money directly affects the town, citing an incident last month where a prisoner escaped from the Pondville Correctional Center in Norfolk.
“There are a lot of activities that go on," he said. "In the last month and a half we had a reverse 9-1-1 go out for an inmate that walked away from [Pondville Correctional Facility] and we had public safety officers, police and fire, mostly police, out working with Department of Corrections staff looking for someone that had left the area or had walked away from a prison. Those are direct community impacts."
Selectmen Nancy Mackenzie brought up the day-to-day impact on the town's roads due to routine transport to and from Cedar Junction, such as employees of the prison and inmates going to court appointments and hospital appointments.
“That’s a lot of wear and tear that are on our roads,” she said.
"It is extremely frustrating that the DOC finds it acceptable and, that [the Executive Office for Administration & Finance] would go along with it, to simply eliminate that funding,” said Boynton.
On Monday, Boynton sent an email to local legislators “urging them not to support any further 9c cuts because unlike communities that don’t host [correctional facilities] we have already been hit and we’ve been hit disproportionately and that is a frustrating point to be going through this once again.”
The next step for town officials will be to further evaluate the impact of the cuts - such as the affect on schools - and to wait for the budget estimate that administration and legislative leaders will be working on for fiscal ’14.
“We will be waiting with bated breath," Boynton said.