SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 22, 2014

Pols load budget with pet projects, policy changes

(Continued)

Tarr has also filed amendments to put the brakes on a proposed standardized test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which school districts across the state are evaluating as a replacement for MCAS.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are expected to meet separately Tuesday to decide which of 948 budget amendments to support. Those talks occur before the Senate’s public debate begins — unlike the House, where closed-door negotiations happen during the session.

On May 1, the House passed a $36.2 billion budget that would raise spending by about 5 percent without new taxes.

Many of the latest round of budget requests aim to trim costs for cash-strapped local governments.

Sen. Kathleen O’Connor-Ives, D-Newburyport, asked for $400,000 to help pay for the Town Creek culvert project in Salisbury; $500,000 for a youth sports stadium in Methuen; and $200,000 for the Methuen rail trail project. She’s seeking several smaller grants, including $35,000 for Newburyport’s 250th Anniversary celebrations.

O’Connor-Ives also signed onto an amendment to increase funding for the Community Preservation Act, which allows cities and towns to levy a property tax surcharge up to 3 percent to support affordable housing, open space, historic preservation and recreation. Currently, 148 cities and towns have adopted the law, including North Andover and Newburyport.

“The more communities that have signed onto the CPA, it’s been harder for the state to keep up the matching funds,” O’Connor-Ives said. “This would increase program funding to get it closer to the original 50 percent match.”

Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, wants to pump another $1 million into a public safety program that pays towns and cities to hire police officers. Lawrence and Andover both hired new officers under the $6.5 million program but need to reapply for the grant every year.

“This funding is critical because these communities will be facing budget issues if they don’t get it,” Finegold said. “We need to fight for this money every year.”

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