Chairman Dave Ross gave his “State of the Town” address Tuesday night at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting and.. I ran out of memory while filming it.
That wasn’t really due to Ross being especially long-winded, although it was a bit long and conversational (I’ve always found that one of Ross’ strengths is his ability to break down rather complicated issues in an understandable way). I had set the memory card for larger photos when I went away to Rockport and forgot to reset, thus leaving less space. Ah well.
One factoid from the address that popped out for me: in listing how Grafton compares to other towns in terms of spending and taxes (I’ll break those out in a bit), Ross mentioned that Grafton now has the lowest per-pupil spending in the state. The entire state.
“You can’t say we’re not getting bang for our buck,” Ross said. “There is nobody lower than us.”
He did not have that figure available, so I did a little digging on the Department of Education website, which unfortunately has the 2010-11 school year as the last available numbers. Back then, Grafton had the seventh-lowest in the state, with a per-pupil spending rate of $9,970.
Another one: Grafton experience a 55 percent population increase since the 1970s, which led, of course, to a corresponding need for services.
“We got into a problem when we didn’t do a lot of building in the ’80s and the ’90s,” Ross said, referring to public buildings. That led to the town’s construction, since the year 2000, of Grafton Elementary School (now Millbury Street Elementary School), the new police and fire stations and, of course, the new Grafton High School and the corresponding debt.
Even so, of the eight towns surrounding Grafton, Grafton has this seventh highest residential tax rate, behind Northbridge and Shrewsbury, Ross said.
A few other notes from the address:
- Operating revenues have increased since fiscal year 2009 by almost $4 million to $42,682-347;
- Average spending has decreased up to 10 percent in the last seven years in several categories, including general government, public safety, education, public works, human services and recreation;
- Grafton has not needed an operational override;
- The town has an AA stable bond rating;
- The town has filed suits in the past year against the Grafton & Upton Railroad for violating local zoning, conservation and other bylaws and against Pulte Homes for excess profits under state laws;
- Used an EPA Demonstration Grant to reduce pollution using cutting edge technology in the Blackstone Canal near the former Fisherville Mill;
- In the past year, the town has opened Mill Village Park, completed phase one of One Grafton Common renovations, repaired and re-opened the Depot Street bridge and finished dredging Lake Ripple.
My favorite notation: the Municipal Center will be getting a new phone system which, Ross noted, seems like not a big deal. Unless you spend a lot of time calling various town departments, where you need to dial the main number, listen to the recorded voice, remember which extension to dial… the new system will have direct phone numbers.