The town's new legislative delegation visited with Tewksbury's school committee for the first time since last November's elections on Wednesday, and warned Tewksbury officials not to get overly excited about Gov. Deval Patrick's earlier announcements that showed Tewksbury getting a slight increase in Chapter 70 educational funding from the state in Fiscal Year 2012.
"The governor was incredibly optimistic," said newly elected State Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover. "I fully expect cuts to restricted local aid and unrestricted local aid."
Finegold took issue with Patrick's contention that reductions in Medicaid expenditures, which cost the state over $10 billion per year, will help prevent dramatic cuts in state aid to cities and towns in the coming months.
"The governor hopes to cut Medicaid and avoid reductions in state aid," Finegold said. "But I don't expect that to have any benefit this year. Maybe in year two or three, but not this year."
Cities and towns depending on state funding to offset shortfalls in local revenues will be forced to make tough budget decisions this year, Finegold said.
"I don't see how you're going to see any increases in local aid," Finegold said. "It's inevitable that towns will probably have to do layoffs. This is as tough as it gets."
State Rep. James Miceli of Wilmington agreed with Finegold.
"Things just don't look good," he said. "The numbers don't stack up the way they should. I think the governor is being overly optimistic."
Patrick's proposed increase in Chapter 70 educational funding would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and the State Senate before the next budget goes into affect on July 1.
Miceli pointed to the state's burdensome Medicaid expenditures as the primary reason why legislators cannot provide funding from Beacon Hill. One in six Massachusetts residents receive some level of Medicaid benefits.
"That's the real killer," Miceli said. "Medicaid affects everything. I think we're not doing a good enough job of ferreting out the fraud. The administration keeps looking the other way."
Newly elected state Rep. Paul Adams, R-Andover, agreed with his Beacon Hill colleagues.
"(Patrick's) budget is just a general spending plan," Adams said. "He expects the legislature to take over from here and make up for his mistakes."