TM: Stop new spending on social services Wednesday, May 10, 2006
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town Meeting last night demanded a moratorium on new state spending on social service agencies, arguing the town has been shortchanged for hosting a disproportionate share of the organizations.

The session passed a resolution, 70-51, after the PILOT study committee unveiled a report tracking explosive growth in the number of social service agencies and sites in town since 1990.

The statement, which is symbolic, calls for state agencies and the Legislature to halt new and increased spending on local agencies until "a more equitable system" is in place to serve people.

"It is apparent from the PILOT study that we are shouldering a larger burden than all other comparable communities by a large margin and are not being fairly compensated in grants and payments to balance the discrepancy," the resolution states.

Town Meeting passed the resolution, written by Harold and Gloria Geller of Precinct 2, after the study committee presented majority and minority reports on the effects social services have on the town.  Members also voted to dissolve the committee at the end of the annual Town Meeting.

According to the majority report, Framingham has seen a 600 percent jump in the number of social service sites since 1990.  Social service programs contribute to crime and increased school costs.  The agencies are also exempt from paying about $515,000 in property taxes.

Several Town Meeting members lauded the committee for its work, which began about 10 months ago, after Town Meeting voted to create it.  Dan Gittelsohn of Precinct 14 said the six majority members did "a wonderful job."

Gittelsohn said social services can be beneficial, but, he said, "Unfortunately in our town they grow like a cancer."

One Town Meeting member -- Alan Crane of Precinct 18 and an employee of social service agency Advocates Inc. -- spoke against the resolution, warning that social service programs are already "grossly underfunded."

But Crane also cautioned against dissolving the committee until Town Meeting hears what "concrete action" town officials will take in response to the reports.

Both reports make a number of recommendations.  They each call for creating a new position in town government called a human services coordinator, who would act as a liaison between the agencies and the town and advocate on the town's behalf.

Despite areas of agreement, the minority members set their sights on several sections of the majority's report, calling some of the findings "misleading" and accusing the majority of relying on weak assumptions to support their claims.

Like Crane, some Town Meeting members said they wanted to know whether town officials planned to carry out any of the recommendations.

Selectmen are scheduled to meet with the committee Monday night.  Selectmen Chairman Dennis Giombetti told Town Meeting the board planned to take up the issue "diligently" in the coming months.

"We do take this report seriously," he said.

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