Dracut officials are a little nervous these days, and with good reason.
With the Legislature about to give Gov. Deval Patrick the necessary authority to balance the state’s budget with further cuts, selectmen are understandably concerned with rumored cuts in local aid, and how they will manage local services.
Dracut relies heavily on local aid, taking in just more than 32 percent of its operating revenues from the state. Making up for any cutbacks seven months into the fiscal year would be difficult at best.
But they will have no choice, and very few options to look at.
Dealing with a local aid shortfall of 5 percent to 10 percent means a 20-percent impact on the operational budgets, and if the departments have been spending at a rate that assumes full revenues, we will be looking at layoffs in the second part of this fiscal period.
More likely, the department heads have been paying attention to the warnings coming from the Legislature and Gov. Patrick’s office and have slowed spending.
Gov. Patrick, for his part in all of this, certainly has set a good example for local leaders to follow. He is a spender at a time of significant cutbacks, a combination that can result in loud whining. But Gov. Patrick, who already has made more than a billion dollars in adjustments to the state budget, has done so professionally.
For all of the predictions about liberal spending under a Patrick administration, this governor has shown that he gets it.
His statement, “State government is only doing its version of what individuals and families are having to do, figure out how in tough times to get by with less,” is refreshing.
By the end of January, the Board of Selectmen and the town manager will know what resources they will have to work with, and much like our state government, will have to find a way to get through the fiscal year while protecting vital services.
It’s not pleasant work and will require a team effort.
In 1992, the town went through very challenging times. The library and one of Dracut’s fire stations were closed, the seniors were running bake sales to fund operations at their senior center and layoffs were everywhere.
Fiscal 2010 will provide the real challenge as projections for state revenues are not optimistic, and although the town’s $2 million in free cash will help, any increases in operational costs may well come at the expense of jobs.
Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-AM from 6 to 10 a.m.