|SENATE W&M COMMITTEE OFFERS $47.6B FY22 BUDGET WITH KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL & SCHOOL AID |
• INCLUDES THE FULL $39.5M INCREASE IN UGGA
• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 BY $220M ABOVE FY21,FUNDING THE STUDENT OPPORTUNITY ACT ON SCHEDULE
• INCREASES CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS BY $31.7M• ADDS $46M FOR STUDENT ENROLLMENT AND SUMMER SCHOOL GRANTS
• INCLUDES $389M TO FUND THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER• ADDS $1M TO McKINNEY-VENTO REIMBURSEMENTS OVER FY21
•ADDS $4M TO PILOT
May 11, 2021
Dear Osler Peterson,
Earlier today, the Senate Ways & Means Committee advanced a $47.6 billion fiscal 2022 state budget plan to the full Senate for consideration later this month. The plan would increase overall state expenditures by 2.6% over the current year’s budget, and reflects a 4.3% increase over the Governor’s January budget proposal. The SW&M budget matches the 3.5% increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) in the Governor’s and House budgets, would significantly increase Chapter 70 school aid, and includes $40 million in a one-time grant program targeting student enrollment decline.
The full Senate will start debate on the FY22 budget on Tuesday, May 25, and Senate members must file all budget amendments by 2 p.m. on Friday, May 14. The Senate usually considers over 1,000 amendments during budget debate week.
The SW&M budget would increase funding for other major aid programs by adding $220 million to Chapter 70 aid over FY21; $37 million in additional funds for Charter School Mitigation payments, and an additional $1 million for McKinney-Vento transportation for homeless students. To acknowledge student enrollment declines due to the public health emergency, S. 3 would set aside $40 million in a one-time reserve account to assist districts impacted by the decline, as well as $6 million in one-time grant funding for summer school and student mental health support. The proposal would also provide an increase of $1 million for public libraries and $1 million for regional public libraries. S.3 also proposes a $4 million increase for the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land account.
Later Today or by the End of the Week, You Can Use This Link to See Your Community’s Local Aid and Preliminary Cherry Sheet Numbers in the Senate Ways & Means Budget, as Posted by the Division of Local Services
You Can Link to the SW&M Committee’s Budget Here
The Senate Ways & Means budget would increase Chapter 70 aid by $220 million over FY21, bringing the total to $5.503 billion. S. 3 would fund the “goal rates” originally set forth in the Student Opportunity Act, which set a seven-year schedule that was to begin in FY21 but was sidelined last year due to the public health emergency. To get back on track, the MMA joined with other education advocates to ask the Legislature to fund Chapter 70 at an SOA implementation rate of one-sixth rather than one-seventh in order to return to the intended schedule. The House-Senate local aid agreement included a commitment to fund the Student Opportunity Act increases at one-sixth. S. 3 includes a one-time provision, introduced in the Governor’s budget and supported by the MMA, that would allow municipalities to use a portion of their school district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) federal grant award toward the increase from last year in their required local contribution. The House did not include this language.
Rural School Aid
Rural School Aid is funded at $3 million, reinserting an important account for rural school districts, especially those struggling with declining enrollment. The Governor funded this account at $1.5 million, half of the FY21 appropriation, and the House did not include the line item.
Special Education Circuit Breaker
S. 3 provides $387.9 million, including approximately $15 million funds carried over from the previous year, for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate. This reimbursement rate, as well as the inclusion of costs associated with out-of-district transportation, reflect obligations outlined in the Student Opportunity Act. The total appropriation is higher than the budgets offered by the Governor and the House.
To address charter school mitigation payments, S. 3 includes $149.1 million to reimburse school districts at 75%, the rate set forth in year one of the Student Opportunity Act implementation schedule, for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools, which is $5 million below the House budget. The MMA points out that charter school finance presents a major challenge to many districts, in a number of cases negating the increases districts realize in Chapter 70 aid.
The Senate Ways and Means budget decreases regional school transportation to $78.6 million. The House budget was higher at $82 million. The Senate Ways and Means budget would increase transportation for homeless students under McKinney-Vento by $1 million over FY21, to $14.4 million. Out-of-district vocational transportation is level-funded at $250,000.
PILOT Funding Increased
Recognizing the importance of Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOTS) for state-owned land, the Senate Ways & Means Committee increased the line item to $35 million (a $4 million increase over FY21). The Governor’s budget had recommended level-funding at $31 million; the House increased the account to $33 million. Underfunding PILOT over the years has created a significant hardship for smaller communities with large amounts of state-owned property.
Shannon Grants, Cybersecurity, and Library Aid
S. 3 includes level-funding for the Shannon grants for gang violence prevention and intervention, and includes critical funding for the Mass Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, which provides important outreach and training programs for municipalities. The accounts for public libraries and regional public libraries would each see an increase of $1 million, matching the House proposal.
It is clear that Senate leaders are prioritizing K-12 funding, unrestricted municipal aid and other increases for cities and towns, as they advance an agenda to ensure stability during a time of uncertainty. The local funding aid agreement reached by the Joint Ways and Means Committee last month, including commitments to UGGA, Chapter 70, and the acknowledgement of school enrollment challenges, creates a more stable budget-setting process for cities and towns in the weeks and months ahead. This progress is deeply appreciated. During the budget debate and legislative session, the MMA will work to build on this progress, and will continue to advocate for full funding of the education funding priorities outlined in the Student Opportunity Act, fixing the serious problems caused by the current charter school system, securing higher Chapter 70 minimum aid increases, achieving full funding for all municipal and school reimbursement programs including transportation accounts, and providing higher PILOT funding.
Please Call Your Senators Today to Thank Them for the Local Aid Investments in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Budget.
Please Explain How the Senate Ways and Means Budget Would Impact Your Community, and Ask Your Senators to Build on this Progress During the Budget Debate.