SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Representatives of Shrewsbury, Westborough, Northborough, Southborough and Berlin/Boylston called for a moratorium Thursday on state mandates on local towns.
Unfunded mandates and the uncertainty over state spending on education are big worries, said municipal and school representatives at a meeting in Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury Selectman Jim Kane, who chaired the meeting, outlined the group's priorities, including:
• Keeping pressure on legislators to call for a moratorium on mandates, and
• Reforming state funding allocations for education.
Unfunded mandates are "a perennial issue" that needs to change, Kane said. "It's time to reform," he said. "It's time for Vatican II."
Northborough Assistant Town Administrator Kimberly Hood cited an example of an unfunded mandate from the Department of Environmental Protection: New regulations prohibit "sharps" from being disposed of in household trash but don't provide communities with funding for alternative disposal programs. ("Sharps" are hypodermic needles and lancets often used to treat diabetes and allergies.)
"It's a mandate," Hood said, "but there's no funding."
State mandates were "taking local control away from our schools," Berlin-Boylston School Committee member Bradford Wyatt said. Those mandates are consuming teachers' development days and distracting from the learning process, Wyatt said.
"I think the formula's broken, but the biggest inertia in politics is to do nothing," he said.
The group also expressed frustration with Chapter 70, the state's formula for allocating money to local school districts. Few people even understood the formula, they said.
"It will take real political courage to change that," Shrewsbury School Committee member John Samia said.
The best course of action is to pressure legislators, legislative candidates and the governor into making revisions in mandates and school funding, Kane said.