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New school payment plan vetoed

'We'll haggle the numbers and get it done'

September 04, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The state has rejected the town's school funding plan, but Town Manager Christopher Clark isn't too concerned yet. Just annoyed.

"The governor vetoed our special legislation to do the school, so I've got to go back and do that for a third time," he told the Planning & Development Subcommittee Thursday. Afterward, he added, "I've already met with the governor's people and they asked us to tighten up the language."

Specifically, Clark's referring to a plan to pay only interest over the first three years and gradually increasing principal toward the end of the 30-year period. That concept was originally rejected by the Municipal Finance Oversight Board on the grounds that it created what the state saw as a "balloon payment" several years into the period. (In fact, it set up a plateau at about $1.47 million a year between 2022 and 2037, when it ends. The state's preferred plan plateaued at about $1.15 million in 2015 and stayed there until 2038 before dropping, lasting five years longer and costing $500,000 more than the town's plan.)

To go around that rejection, Clark sought special legislation, which the House and Senate approved this summer.

"The governor vetoed it because the language was 'too vague,'" Clark said.

But there's still time to correct the problem; he plans to submit a rephrased version shortly.

"We're not going to go out and permanently finance anything for the next two years," he observed, noting he's "impatient" and has no plan to wait that long. Among other things, he noted, "Who knows what the [bond] market will look like in two years."

School Building Committee Chairman Scott Lazo was not happy to hear of the setback, saying "in these economic times, it takes creative financing" to do things.

"We've got some people in Boston who understand what's going on in the small communities like Southbridge," but he doesn't feel the governor is one of them, Lazo added. "We've hit the Boston bumps before where they've said you can't do this and can't do that, and we argued our case. … We'll haggle over the numbers and get it done."

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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