McKenna discusses state, local issues at Board meeting
By Tom Reilly
Sutton’s new State Rep. Joe McKenna appeared before Selectmen at the Feb. 3 meeting to update them on state issues and address local concerns.
McKenna won the seat that was held by former Sutton Selectman Ryan Fattman, who challenged longtime State Sen. Richard Moore in the November election and claimed the Worcester Norfolk Senate district. McKenna is the former Chief of Staff to State Rep. Peter Durant, who serves the communities of Southbridge, Dudley, Spencer and Charlton.
McKenna told the Board that Gov. Charlie Baker has determined that the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year to be $765 million. The impact of the recent multiple snowstorms has yet to be determined, however, he said, but noted that Baker’s declaration of the state of emergnecy allows communities to petition for reimbursement for some portion of snow removal costs. He assured the Board that Sutton would see its share.
He also noted that Baker had released $100 million in Chapter 90 money to cities and towns which meant an additional $221,455 for Sutton for roads and other infrastructure, bringing the year’s total to $664,000.
McKenna said that he had met with Town Administrator Jim Smith to discuss a number of local issues including the completion of the sidewalk from the schools to the proposed athletic fields at the Shaw Farm. McKenna said that this money had been included in a bond bill and that he would continue to advocate to make sure that the money got allocated.
He added that a recent effort to tell cities and towns what they might expect for local aid in fiscal year 2016 was defeated in the legislature and that nothing would be forthcoming on local aid until the governor released his preliminary budget early in March.
Town officials asked McKenna to focus on local aid for the town and Chapter 70 funding for the schools. Smith noted that Sutton recently sent three students to Norfolk Agricultural at the cost of $24,000 each and a difference of $10,000 per student over what it would cost to teach them in Sutton’s schools. Selectman Dave Hall also mentioned the high cost of special education and what a strain that was on local budgets.