EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 3, 2013

Local aid hike cheers local lawmakers, leaders

If all goes according to plan, cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley may end up with some extra cash thanks to the state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Yesterday, the Legislature announced it had given final approval to a $34 billion state budget that included increases in government and education funding for cities and towns across the Commonwealth. The governor has 10 days to sign the budget, which was put on his desk Monday.

Under the spending plan, Andover got an additional $550,000 over last year’s tally, while North Andover picked up an additional $300,000.

Lawrence was the biggest winner locally, picking up $6 million more in education aid and another $400,000 in so-called ‘unrestricted general government aid.’ Haverhill would get an additional $3.8 million while Methuen would pick up an extra $1.2 million.

“It was a decent increase and I think we feel good about the numbers we see for the communities,” said Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover.

Sen. Kathleen O’Connor-Ives, D-Newburyport, called local aid a “key priority. We hear it from our local elected municipal leaders that this is key. I wanted to relay that message. I think it’s going in the right direction.”

Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, agreed, adding, “This marks a remarkable turnaround for the taxpayers and communities of our state. Up until the year 2011, the Patrick administration continually cut local aid to our cities and towns. Today, we are making real progress toward correcting the damage inflicted by those unwise local aid cuts.”

Ray Santilli, assistant town manager of North Andover, said the town level-funded local aid in this year’s budget, meaning there will be a surplus.

“If this ends up being the final number, we’ll have an extra $300,000 in the budget,” he said. “This is good news. Whenever you get money, it’s good news.”

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