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MONSON — During its March 26 meeting, the Select Board received legislative updates from state Sen. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) and state Reps. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow) and Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield).

Ashe began with an outline on plans for the fiscal year 2025 budget put forth earlier in the year by the Healey-Driscoll administration.

The House will move ahead with their budget beginning the week of April 22, followed by the Senate in May. As Ashe explained, the separate budgets will be conferenced by members from the House, Senate and the Governor’s office before a final vote takes place.

“You don’t get everything that you ask for,” Ashe said. “So, we have to prioritize what we want so a lot of times what we’ll do is go from town to town to see what the needs are.”

Ashe said they have to be more careful about the current year in what they put in for in the budget.

“We’ve been lucky for the past 12 years, we’ve been in really good financial shape, being able to do things that we wanted to do,” he said. “This is the first year in quite a while that we had to take a little step backwards, that the revenues from the state haven’t been what they projected.”

Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz told board members she had asked for assistance from Fattman, Ashe and Puppolo with the town’s Council on Aging, as it was seeking to replace the transportation van and Meals on Wheels vehicle.

“We do have some grant funding that goes to it already for one of them,” Wolowicz said. “And if the representatives and the senator can get us some monies from the state, that’s always appreciated.”

Puppolo said there have been prior meetings with the Select Board about funding needs, but he reiterated Ashe’s earlier comments stating it was going to be a lean budget year.

“FY25 could be very dicey,” he said, pointing to the budget recommendation in the general area of $56 billion.

Board Chair Patricia Oney asked about potential progress in funding for the redevelopment on the Monson Developmental Center site, which closed down completely in 2012.

“Obviously, that’s been a burden on the town for years,” Ashe said. “It’s a lost piece of property but until some work is done there, obviously a lot of work to clean it up,” noting that only about 120 acres of the 600 acres of land would be usable.

Fattman told board members he would be advocating for town projects including the transportation van, Fire Department apparatus and the salt shed pursuits.

“I’m certainly concerned about some of the things that are going on in the budget with revenue going down and expenses going up,” he said. “My hope is to be able to help the town of Monson budgetarily to offset some of the corresponding challenges that we have.”

Board member John Morrell told the three legislators that he would like to see a bigger push for increases in the Chapter 90 formula, which bases state road funding for local government on a combination of local road mileage, population and employment figures.

“It should be an easy sell,” Morell said, saying the formula has been stagnant. “Because every city and town in the state benefits from it in some way.”

Ashe said that Chapter 90 needs a formula that makes sense for every part of the state.

Wolowicz said that following a Pioneer Valley Planning Commission assessment of the town’s pavement management plan two years ago, Monson was $18 million behind in bringing local roads up to par.

“That was two years ago, so where are we now,” noting the town would be receiving $454,000 for Chapter 90 funds, the same figure they receive each year.

Fattman also spoke to C3 funding for childcare which could be facing cuts in the budget and the potential preservation of Chapter 70 monies which apply to state aid for elementary and secondary education. While acknowledging vulnerabilities to the funding, he said ways to preserve the money was continually under exploration.

Oney also inquired about any movement in unfunded mandates involving the police department and special education, the legislators did say they would continue to push for funding for both noting rising costs in both areas.

To close out their discussion with the board, the three legislators presented a citation on behalf of the state Senate and House honoring the Monson Fire Department acknowledging their victory in the annual Police vs Fire Smokeoff.

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