Friday, March 24, 2000
Transportation crunch tops concerns of local and state officials
"Transportation is at the top of everybody's list right now," according to David Soule, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). He addressed members of the Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) at the semi-annual legislative breakfast in Hudson on March 14.
The legislators, planners and town officials at the meeting presented issues that confirmed Soule's assessment. However, there was a generally weary resignation to budget cuts and delays that have affected already approved plans, such as the Route 2 improvements, which have been pushed ahead to the end of the decade.
Existing transportation services may also be subject to budget cuts. For example, the subsidized Gulbakian bus, which has helped ease transportation problems within the MAGIC area will probably be lost. While the demand for funds to support the "Big Dig" project in Boston is the accepted reason for budget cuts, several speakers at the meeting felt the cuts were engineered to show a surplus in the state treasury and thus serve as a rationale to roll back taxes. Current funds are being conserved by not advertising for new projects, yet if projects aren't advertised, funds will vaporize. The governor has 100 percent control over what is spent from bond monies and he has chosen not to spend one million dollars of available funds, according to a member of the long-term debt committee.
Growth creates housing needs
Industrial build-out along the Route 495 beltway and shifts in population to the outlying areas are expected to necessitate some redistricting. This will affect MAGIC communities down the line in both representation and reimbursements, but not in time to temper the Big Dig drain or attempts to cut the budget.
Executive Order 418 officially recognizes the housing shortages in the area caused by the population shift This order provides monies for planning for affordable housing and looks favorably upon regional solutions to housing problems. Affordable housing incentives might be expected along with less leniency for communities that have not met their quota of ten percent affordable housing. Carlisle is well under the ten percent mark, and there is some speculation that if present efforts to obtain funding for construction of affordable housing are not successful, there will be renewed efforts by developers to bypass town bylaws, such as the two-acre zoning requirement.
Special education bill
State Senator Pam Resor spoke of the need to tighten up qualifications for special education (SPED) acceptance and reflected on the effect changed standards could have on program quality. School budgets are strained by mandatory special education expenses as well as by the increasing numbers of children being enrolled in the program. Representative Carol Cleven commented that medical technology has made it possible to keep more at-risk babies alive, which has increased the numbers of children who may be candidates for special education.
No relief for the SPED crunch appears to be in sight since it is felt that the formula for reimbursement will not change this year. However, the SPED hearings taking place could shape future distributions.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito