Massachusetts Municipal Association alert this afternoon -
SENATE W&M RELEASES FY14 BUDGET PLAN
MIXED BAG FOR CITIES AND TOWNS:
EDUCATION ACCOUNTS $39M ABOVE HOUSE BUDGET
UGGA $21 MILLION BELOW HOUSE BUDGET
• Chapter 70 would increase by $130.1 million, $15.2 million more than the budget passed by the House
• The Special Education Circuit Breaker would be funded at $252.8 million, $14.3 million more the House
• Charter School Reimbursements would be funded at $76.4 million, $5.9 million more than the House
• Regional School Transportation would be funded at $49.5 million, $3.5 million more than the House
• BUT UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID (UGGA) WOULD BE LEVEL FUNDED AT $899 MILLION, $21 MILLION LESS THAN THE BUDGET PASSED BY THE HOUSE
At noon on Wednesday, May 15, the Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed fiscal 2014 state budget. The proposal would invest more in key education accounts that cities and towns depend on to fund public education, but the plan also rejects the $21 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) embraced by the House of Representatives in April. Senators have until 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17 to file amendments, and Senate debate will begin on Wednesday, May 22. This means that local officials should contact their Senators immediately to secure a commitment to restore the House-adopted $21 million increase in unrestricted municipal aid during the budget debate, and support the progress that the SW&M Committee has made on key education priorities.
Please Contact Your Senators Immediately and Call on them to Co-Sponsor and Support the Amendment Offered by Sen. Eileen Donoghue to Include the $21 Million UGGA Increase in the Senate’s Fiscal 2014 State Budget
When you speak with your Senators, please tell them that this is the first time in recent memory that the Senate is proposing to fund unrestricted municipal aid at a lower level than the House. In addition, please make the following points:
• Please remind your Senators that cities and towns use unrestricted municipal aid to fund critical and essential public services, including police protection, emergency response for fires and health emergencies, public works systems including roads and parks and vital maintenance, and much more, including funding school budgets, libraries, youth and senior programs;
• Please remind your Senators that UGGA has not been increased since fiscal 2008, and municipal aid is $416 million lower today than it was in fiscal 2008, which means local aid has been cut more deeply than nearly any other part of the state budget;
• Please emphasize that losing the $21 million in UGGA funds would be very disruptive this late in the municipal budget cycle – communities have been reasonable to count on the House number because it is only a 2.3 percent increase in a budget account that has been cut by 32 percent in recent years, and the Senate Ways and Means budget plan would increase state spending by 4.4 percent, but level fund municipal aid; and
• Please ask your Senators to co-sponsor the amendment that will be offered by Sen. Eileen Donoghue of Lowell to add the $21 million to Unrestricted General Government Aid. Senators must sign on as a co-sponsor prior to the 3:00 p.m. amendment deadline this Friday, May 17.
KEY ASPECTS OF THE SENATE WAYS AND MEANS BUDGET:
Unrestricted General Government Aid
Even though the SW&M fiscal 2014 budget plan would increase total state spending by 4.4 percent, the proposal would level fund Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $899 million, $21 million below the budget passed by the House of Representatives in April. Communities use these funds to support essential municipal and school programs. The House-passed $21 million increase would boost UGGA by just 2.3 percent, and local officials have been counting on this increase as they plan their own budgets for the coming year. Senator Eileen Donoghue of Lowell will be offering a budget amendment to include the $21 million in the Senate’s fiscal 2014 budget. The MMA will be aggressively pushing to restore this increase during the Senate budget debate, and throughout the entire budget process as the House and Senate reconcile their versions of the budget prior to July 1. It is vitally important for local officials to contact their Senators to urge them to co-sponsor and support this key municipal aid amendment.
Chapter 70 Education Aid
The SW&M budget proposal would increase Chapter 70 funding by $130.1 million, to fully fund the foundation budget formula, provide a minimum increase of $25 per student to every city and town, and add $16.9 million to phase in the 2006 target share reforms. This is $15.2 million more than the budget passed by the House, and represents progress in securing a higher level of aid for many districts, although the Senate and House plans are still far below the $226 million increase proposed by the Governor earlier in the year (the Governor’s budget plan was based on passage of his $1.9 billion tax plan).
Special Education “Circuit Breaker”
The Senate Ways and Means Committee deserves praise for funding the Special Education Circuit Breaker account at $252.8 million, bringing that program up to or much closer to full funding. This is $14.3 million more than the amount funded by the House, and $22.3 million more than the budget filed by the Governor in January. This is a major achievement, and is very much appreciated by local officials. The MMA will be strongly advocating for this funding level throughout the entire budget process.
Charter School Reimbursements
It is vitally important to fund the Charter School Reimbursement Account in order to protect regular public schools from financial harm due to the diversion of Chapter 70 aid to charter schools. Underfunding the reimbursement account reduces funding for programs for the 97 percent of school children in traditional schools. DESE estimates that it would require $102.7 million to fully fund the state’s obligation to cover a portion of the loss of Chapter 70 school aid deducted from local public schools and paid as tuition to charter schools, as required in the 2010 education reform law reimbursement formula. Overall, DESE expects that cities and towns will be required to divert $406.8 million of their Chapter 70 aid to fund charter schools in fiscal 2014, $53.3 million more than in fiscal 2013, which demonstrates the importance of funding this key account to ease the blow to local districts that educate the vast majority of students.
The Governor’s budget filed in January included an appropriation of $80.3 million. This amount is $9.8 million higher than the current fiscal 2013 level (after the $1.0 million mid-year 9C cut). The House-passed budget would level fund the account at $70.5 million. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is proposing a $5.9 million increase to $76.4 million. The proposed increase represents some progress, but the account would still be significantly underfunded, and without full funding, programs for students in the traditional public school system will be harmed. The MMA will seek to increase funding during the Senate budget debate.
Student Transportation Reimbursements
In December, the Governor cut regional student transportation reimbursements by $1 million, lowering the account to $44.5 million. The House increased the fiscal 2014 funding level to $46 million in April, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee is proposing $49.5 million, a $3.5 million increase above the House. This is an important account for many smaller communities in regional districts. Full funding would require $78 million.
Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program
The Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program was funded at $4.5 million in the House’s fiscal 2014 budget plan, and the Senate budget committee proposes to add $1.75 million, which would restore the program to the current $6.25 million level. This account is crucial to assist those communities dealing with very challenging public safety and gang-related issues.
Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT), McKinney-Vento, and Library Aid
Several other important local aid accounts are level-funded in the Senate Ways and Means budget proposal, including payments to cities and towns that host state property ($26.27 million) and the McKinney-Vento program to transport homeless students to their original school districts ($6.05 million). Library aid is also level-funded in the Senate budget plan ($16.055 million), which is $48K lower than the House-passed amount.
Please Contact Your Senators Immediately and Call on them to Co-Sponsor and Support the Sen. Donoghue Amendment to Add $21 Million to Unrestricted Municipal Aid (UGGA) in the Senate’s Fiscal 2014 State Budget
Please visit the MMA website at www.mma.org for the latest information as the budget process unfolds.
Thank you very much.