The annual state budget process starts with the Governor’s proposed budget, followed next by the House version, then next by the Senate version, and the final result from the House/Senate committee set up to resolve the two versions. This year we are now up to the House version, and below is the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s comments on that House version.
To put state aid to towns in its recent context, while the state revenues have now recovered to be above the levels existing before the Great Recession, the state’s revenue sharing aid to municipalities still lags far behind the pre-2007 levels. The general result of that lower state aid is that the state has effectively transferred to cities and towns the cost of providing the required municipal services. Towns must then either opt to provide less service, or tax our residents more via property taxes to get the same level of service as before the Great Recession.
If residents do not like their property taxes rising, they should have a discussion with their state legislators to ask for a return to pre-2007 state aid levels.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE OFFERS $38B FY 2016 STATE BUDGET THAT MAKES KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID
• INCLUDES THE FULL $34M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (UGGA)
• ADDS $8.3M TO SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
• RESTORES $5M TO REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION
• RESTORES $18.6 MILLION TO KINDERGARTEN DEVELOPMENT GRANTS
• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID TO $25 PER STUDENT
• LEVEL-FUNDS MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS
Earlier this afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee reported out a lean $38 billion fiscal 2016 state budget plan to increase overall state expenditures by 2.8 percent, as the state seeks to close a projected $1.8 billion structural budget deficit by restraining spending and eliminating 4,500 state jobs through an early retirement program. The House Ways and Means budget is $100 million smaller than the budget filed by Governor Baker in March. The full House will debate the fiscal 2016 state budget during the week of April 27.
H. 3400, the House Ways and Means budget, provides strong progress on many important local aid priorities, including the full $34 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid that the Governor proposed and communities are counting on. The House W&M Committee would increase funding for several major aid programs, by adding $8.3 million to the Special Education Circuit Breaker, restoring $18.6 million to Kindergarten Development Grants, restoring $5 million to Regional School Transportation, and increasing Chapter 70 minimum aid from $20 to $25 per student.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID AND CHAPTER 70 AID AMOUNTS FOR YOUR COMMUNITY AS PROPOSED IN THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE BUDGET
$34 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, H. 3400 (the HW&M fiscal 2016 budget plan) would provide $979.8 million for UGGA, a $34 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker. The $34 million would increase UGGA funding by 3.6 percent, which is 75 percent of the projected 4.8 percent increase in state tax collections next year. This would be the largest increase in discretionary municipal aid in nearly a decade. Every city and town would see their UGGA funding increase by 3.6 percent.
$8.3 MILLION INCREASE INTENDED TO FULLY FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another victory for cities and towns, House leaders have announced that they support full funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program. Their budget plan would provide $261.7 million, an $8.3 million increase above fiscal 2015, with the intention of fully funding the account. This is a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services.
RESTORES $5 MILLION TO REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION
Last November, former Gov. Patrick used his 9C budget powers to eliminate the $18.7 million increase regional school transportation reimbursements that the Legislature originally enacted for fiscal 2015, reducing the final amount to $51.5 million. The Governor proposed level funding at $51.5 million. Recognizing the importance of this funding, the House Ways and Means Committee budget would restore $5 million to bring regional transportation reimbursements up to $56.5 million. The MMA will work to continue building on this welcome increase.
RESTORES $18.6 MILLION TO KINDERGARTEN DEVELOPMENT GRANTS
The House Ways & Means budget would restore $18.6 million to the Kindergarten Development Grant program. The Governor’s budget would have eliminated all funding, and House leaders want to level fund the current appropriation, at least for the next year. This is an important account, because eliminating the $18.6 million would have jeopardized expanded kindergarten programs all throughout the state.
CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $25 PER STUDENT
The House budget committee is proposing a $108.2 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, with a provision providing every city, town and school district an increase of at least $25 per student. This is $2.9 million more than the recommendation in the Governor’s budget submission. The budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. Because most cities and towns only receive minimum aid (245 operating districts in cities, towns and regions would only receive minimum aid), the MMA will work to build on this progress and will continue to advocate for higher funding.
McKINNEY-VENTO REIMBURSEMENTS WOULD INCREASE BY $1 MILLION
The House Ways and Means Committee budget would add $1 million to increase reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students to $8.4 million, the same funding level proposed in the Governor’s budget. While the account remains below the full reimbursement called for under the state’s unfunded mandate law, it would be the first increase since fiscal 2013.
CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS UNDERFUNDED
Under state law, cities and towns that host or send students to charter schools are entitled to be reimbursed for a portion of their lost Chapter 70 aid. The state fully funded the reimbursement program in fiscal 2013 and 2014, but is underfunding reimbursements by approximately $34 million this year. Both the Governor and the House Ways and Means budgets would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $76.8 million, which would guarantee another major shortfall in fiscal 2016, and result in cutbacks for the majority of students who remain in the traditional school setting. Increasing this account will be a top priority during the budget debate.
PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
The House budget committee’s proposal would level fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, continue to fund library grant programs at $18.5 million, and restore funding for METCO to $19.1 million. All three of these accounts are funded the same in both the Governor and House Ways and Means budgets. However, the HW&M budget would reduce Shannon Anti-Gang Grants to $5 million, a $2 million reduction.