Williams: Cities and Towns Need Mandate Relief…Now

WATERTOWN — Communities throughout the state are struggling to find money for building blocks such as road repair or new school books for children, but the state’s legislature could ease local budget crunches by rolling back costly municipal mandates it imposes but does not pay for, Rep. Sean Williams said.

That was the message from Williams tonight, when he and Sen. Rob Kane (R-Watertown) met with members of the local school board for an hour ahead the panel’s regular meeting.

The state is mired in red ink, and local leaders in every corner of the state are worried about whether they’ll get enough money from the state to fund some of the most important line items in their budget. Williams and Kane described the state’s fiscal problems, providing details of the year’s developments and ideas for solutions—including far-reaching consolidations of state agencies and programs.

In their discussion Williams and Kane discussed mandates such as binding arbitration and in-school suspension, the latter of which could force school districts to hire certified staff at hefty price tags.

Ultimately, unfunded mandates place greater financial stress on local property taxpayers.

“During my short life as a legislator there’s been a consistent and persistent message from local leaders—people who know how to best run their communities,” Williams said. “And despite that desperate ‘do no more harm’ message, the legislature continues to hand down unfunded mandate after unfunded mandate.”

During the course of the 2010 legislative session—it started last week—Williams plans to support proposals that would postpone costly mandates such as in-school suspension, or another that requires municipalities from posting meeting minutes on their official Web sites. What’s more, Williams will throw his weight behind an effort that would make it more difficult for the legislature to impose unfunded mandates.

Williams, who represents Watertown, Oakville and Woodbury, said he and Kane plan to meet regularly with the school board to provide updates on what’s happening at the Capitol and, more important, to collect feedback on issues local educators find important in their efforts to provide quality education.

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