2017 budget for Veterans District Board finalized
ATHOL — The Northeast Quabbin Veterans District Board of Directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to finalize its fiscal year 2017 administrative budget.
The budget will increase from $60,337.58 to $69,305.24. The budget is based on a 34-hour week.
Board chair Brig. Gen. William Meehan (retired) noted the increase is due, in part, to a two percent increase in the director’s salary, a minimal benefits increase for the director, and the reinstatement of funding for administrative costs paid to the town for use of space at the town hall for the district headquarters. For the past two years, the town waived the costs at the request of the board, as the district was experiencing financial constraints, which resulted from Templeton’s departure from the five-town district.
The town of Orange replaced Templeton as a member town. In addition to Athol and Orange, the district includes Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston.
Each town’s assessment is a percentage based on overall population numbers for each town, which are obtained from the state’s Department of Revenue. For FY16, Orange was assessed $12,636, the amount it paid when it was a member of the Central Franklin County Veterans District. When joining the district, the town was advised by the board that the assessment would increase in FY17 and be based on its percentage of the total district population. As a result, FY17’s assessment for Orange will be $22,787.38. The FY17 assessments for the other four towns will be:
• Athol — $34,137;
• Petersham — $3,654.91;
• Phillipston — $5,015.22;
• Royalston — $3,710.73.
District Director Neil McGuirk and Joe Young, who serves as Orange’s representative to the board, said they will attend an Orange selectboard meeting to explain the assessment and what McGuirk has done to date to service the veterans in Orange receiving benefits. McGuirk noted Tuesday, in his operations report, he has worked extensively to clean up a number of inefficiencies that existed as a result of Orange’s former membership in the CFCVD. As one example, he noted there are a number of veterans who were eligible for medical benefits but were not receiving them. That has since been corrected, he said.
With regard to the administrative budget, Meehan reminded board members that, per state law, once voted by the board it is final. The figures cannot be changed by each town’s selectboard, he said.
FY17 Veterans Benefits
McGuirk presented the board with the projected FY17 benefits budget which must be funded by each town. Athol is expected to level-fund at $175,000, as is Phillipston at $10,500. Orange will drop from $190,000 to $180,000. Petersham will increase from $7,800 to $9,000. Royalston will increase from $5,000 to $9,500. The projections are based upon the current fiscal year’s spending rates.
Unknown factors that could impact the projections, McGuirk said, include, in part, new applicants which could include relocations from other communities; and the number of cases terminated due to various factors including death, relocations to other communities, and non-compliance.
As a part of his operations report, McGuirk noted the state now requires district directors to take a certification exam. He recently took the exam for the first time and is awaiting the results. He noted if a person fails the exam three times, a district’s state benefits reimbursements will be reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent, and be held in escrow until such time the matter is resolved.
Additionally, he said districts are also being required to handle more Veterans Administration benefits work, along with the state benefits work. This will require a separate VA certification, he said.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, at 3 p.m., at the offices of the L.P. Athol Corp.