SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Shrewsbury, Grafton, and Northborough have been providing veterans with state aid since 1999, but local officials are saying new state regulations are forcing them to fix what isn't broken.
The district is run by Richard Perron, 89, a World War II veteran, who made a "modest" salary, according to Thomas Gregory, assistant to the town manager. Gregory said Perron was informally assisted by municipal staff from the three communities.
However, last year, the state issued new staffing requirements, said Gregory. Under the state mandate, Perron's job will be handled by one full-time director of veterans services, one full-time veterans agent, one full-time clerical person, and one part time clerical person. Those positions will be paid for by the towns.
The district serves about 17 veterans, Gregory said.
"It's an unfunded mandate," Gregory said.
To help offset the cost, the three towns are inviting Westborough to join the district, and to help offset the cost.
Perron is resigning from his position April 30, 2013.
State Rep. Matthew Beaton, R-Shrewsbury, said Shrewsbury and other communities shouldn't look to the legislature to fix the issue, because the legislature caused the problem in the first place.
"It's certainly a good intent, to make sure veterans get proper services, but there needs to be a mechanism in place for towns to get funding," Beaton said. "It's another example of the state having a good idea, but putting the work and the cost of it onto the town. Basically, it's an unfunded mandate."
Beaton said he has not heard that veterans in his district aren't being served.
Shrewsbury Selectmen grudgingly voted to join the new district on Sept. 11.
"What we've been operating had been very effective, very efficient, and very economical," said Selectman John I. Lebeaux, who lamented that Shrewsbury will deliver the same services, but will be spending more money to do so.
"I'm not hearing that the town's shirking in the performance of its duties," he said. "We're again getting punished for our good work."