MetroWest Daily News: Eldridge, Hogan answer Hudson officials’ budget questions

By Abby Jordan/Daily News staff

HUDSON -State Sen. Jamie Eldridge and state Rep. Kate Hogan met with the Board of Selectmen last night to answer questions on the state budget and to hear about the effects cuts to local aid will have in Hudson.

“Tough times are ahead of us,” said Sonny Parente, selectmen chairman. “We’re in the last leg of what we have available. What is available the next few years is looking grimmer and grimmer.”

Eldridge, D-Acton, said he appreciates how a 2.3 percent cut for fiscal 2009 will affect the town and he and Hogan are advocating the governor not cut Chapter 70 education funds.

“We want to start the conversation and let you know how we’re fighting for you on Beacon Hill,” Eldridge said.

Hogan, D-Stow, said she and Eldridge helped area towns take stock of “shovel ready” projects, and worked to keep budget cuts down.

“We felt that we really helped in keeping the cuts made to local aid to a minimum,” she said.

Selectmen Joe Durant said the town has had varying experiences with MassHighway, and said bridge projects on Houghton and Broad streets are lagging. He complained that the Broad Street bridge was closed well before work began on it.

“Talk about projects that are shovel ready,” he said. “That’s been shovel ready for months.”

Durant also questioned why local aid was an easy target for cuts instead of trimming state spending.

“When we see these cuts to local aid – that’s real,” he said. “That’s our firemen, police and teachers. It’s a number to the state, to us it’s a real thing.”

Eldridge said Gov. Deval Patrick’s 9C cuts in October meant a loss of state jobs and did not affect local aid.

Selectmen also questioned Eldridge and Hogan casino gambling.

Eldridge said he opposes gambling because of concerns for those who might become addicted to it, and because local businesses and restaurants could potentially lose business to a casino.

Hogan said she isn’t opposed to gambling, but does not see it as a good longterm source of income.

“I have to say I’m not opposed to legalized gambling,” she said. “I will be looking at it with a rather critical eye.”

Selectmen Fred Levy said one way Eldridge and Hogan could potentially help save Hudson $16 million is by allowing its sewage treatment plant to discharge higher levels of phosphorous. Hudson is under state edict to reduce its phosphorus levels.

“That limit is set too low in one view,” he said. “That’s something you can help us with right away.”

Parente told Eldridge and Hogan that finding ways to save is necessary at the state and local levels.

“We’re all in the same boat here,” he said. “We have to make the tough decisions to try to save as much money as possible.”