|Wednesday, March 16, 2016
HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE PREPARING FISCAL 2017 STATE BUDGET
UGGA, CHAPTER 70, AND KEY MUNI & ED ACCOUNTS AT STAKE
PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY AND SECURE THEIR PLEDGE TO SUPPORT THE $42 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID, HIGHER CH. 70 MINIMUM AID, AND FULL FUNDING FOR KEY EDUCATION AND MUNICIPAL REIMBURSEMENTS AND GRANTS
The House and Senate budget committees have wrapped up public hearings on the fiscal 2017 state budget and are now drafting detailed spending plans that reflect the priorities of each branch. We know from our meetings with legislators that many of you have met with your legislators on local priorities for the many municipal and school aid accounts in the state budget.
With the House Ways & Means Committee’s version of the budget scheduled for release on April 13, it is imperative that you call your legislative delegation to highlight the importance of key local aid accounts before final decisions are made.
On February 29, MMA officers and other local officials testified on the many municipal and school aid accounts that the MMA tracks and supports. Please click here to see MMA’s detailed testimony. Please ask your Representatives to talk to the House Ways & Means Committee and ask that they support the main statewide priority accounts and your own local priorities.
UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID (UGGA)
This is a top priority. Ask your legislators to support the $42 million increase in the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) account included in H. 2, the fiscal budget recommendation submitted by the Governor in January. The UGGA account is currently funded at $979.8 million, and the 4.3 percent increase in H. 2 would simply track the growth in state tax revenues forecast for next year.
CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID
The Governor’s budget recommendation provides a far-too-small 1.6% increase in Chapter 70 school aid, which is much to low. Please ask your legislators to support funding increases for two key aspects of the Chapter 70 calculation for fiscal 2017. The first increase is to ensure adequate funding for the current basic school aid framework. The second is to begin implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations to correct outdated and obsolete aspects of the foundation budget framework.
MINIMUM AID SHOULD BE $100 PER STUDENT. Please support an increase in the “minimum aid” amount to $100 per student, instead of the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget. This is an important way to offset the low inflation factor used to adjust foundation budget components for fiscal 2017 and to help correct the impact of the change in how low-income students are counted. We are also asking legislators to review how low-income students should be counted and added into the formula.
FLAWS IN THE CHAPTER 70 FORMULA SHOULD BE FIXED. Second, please ask your legislators to support the implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum spending standards for special education and health insurance costs for school employees, and to add to the spending standard a measure of recognition for the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner (ELL) and other students who would benefit from more intensive services. The Chapter 70 framework is clearly outdated and inadequate, and the Commission’s recommendations would address the major shortcomings in the formula.
REIMBURSEMENTS FOR SCHOOL AID LOSSES RELATED TO CHARTER SCHOOLS
Please ask your Representatives to support full funding of the state’s legal commitment to reimburse school districts for the loss of a portion of their Chapter 70 aid that is redirected to fund charter schools. This is a growing financial burden on cities and towns that is becoming more acute as the state grants more charters and existing charter schools expand. The shortfall in charter school reimbursements is crippling funding for schools in scores of cities, towns and school districts.
SPECIAL EDUCATION “CIRCUIT BREAKER”
Please ask your Representatives to support full funding of the Special Education “Circuit Breaker” Program, through which the state provides a measure of support for services provided to high-cost special education students. H. 2 would level-fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $272 million. This means that the Governor’s budget likely underfunds reimbursements by approximately $10 million.
PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY TO SUPPORT THESE FOUR MAJOR MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID ACCOUNTS, AND DISCUSS OTHER LOCAL PRIORITIES