No one who's attuned to local town government can help but know that this is budget season. Town officials are working to develop budgets for the next fiscal year. And while each town has its own challenges, there is one thing they have in common: None of them knows what the state Cherry Sheet will provide.
Every year, local officials and volunteers decry the fact that developing a valid budget when you don't know what your total revenues are is impossible. The challenge is getting even worse as costs rise far more quickly than the taxpayers' ability to pay them.
During a visit with Shirley selectmen, state Rep. Jen Benson heard these same remarks as she was asked for more timely release of state funds to include Chapter 90 highway funding as well as Chapter 70 school money.
Benson made clear that she heard the board's request but that the buck stops with the governor. Even when Beacon Hill legislators pass budgets in a more timely fashion, the governor delays the process.
"We've met with him," she said, to no avail. Now, community leaders need to speak up.
In Shirley, specifically, prison mitigation funds are owed. But not only is the amount of these funds a big question mark, the state goes as far as to renege on its promise of funding for these municipalities that accept state prisons within their boundaries.
There's no excuse for that.
The cities and towns of Massachusetts -- and the people therein -- are the backbone of the Commonwealth. Their needs should not be put on the back burner in order to give them what is left in the pot after higher-priority items are funded.
Just as town officials must be careful as they make decisions on how to expend taxpayer dollars, the state must adhere to its obligations, putting cities and towns at the top of the priority list, not at the bottom.
The state's reputation for responsible government has taken even more hits as one department has lost children while another failed to oversee the handling of crucial evidence in tens of thousands of criminal prosecutions. Misuse of welfare and entitlement programs is rampant.
All those on Beacon Hill, including the governor, need to stay home, tend to business and get their priorities straight.