|Earlier today, the Senate Ways & Means Committee reported out a lean $40.3 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan to increase overall state expenditures by 3.3 percent. The budget proposal makes key investments in municipal and education aid priorities.
S. 3, the Senate Ways and Means budget, includes the full $40 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid that the House and Governor have proposed. Communities are counting on the full $40 million UGGA increase to balance their budgets and maintain essential services.
The Senate budget plan also increases Chapter 70 aid by $37.4 million above the Governor’s recommendation by increasing minimum aid from $20 per student to $30 per student, going farther in implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, and adding $12 million to hold districts harmless in the new calculation of the number of low-income students. The House-passed budget also set minimum aid at $30 per student and includes the $12 million for low-income students. After accounting for those changes, the Senate Ways & Means Committee’s budget provides $10 million more for Chapter 70 than the House, primarily by joining the House in increasing the calculation of employee health insurance costs, and then expanding on that by increasing the calculation of special-education-related costs.
In a major step forward for cities and towns, the Senate W&M Committee would add $16.5 million to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, an important priority for communities.
The full Senate will begin debating the fiscal 2018 state budget on Tuesday, May 23.
Please Click this Link Now to See the Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Municipal Aid Numbers for Your Community
Click 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
$40 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, the SW&M fiscal 2018 budget plan (S. 3) would provide $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $40 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker and voted by the House. Almost all of UGGA funding comes from $985M in expected Lottery proceeds and $65M from the Plainridge gaming facility. The full $40 million UGGA increase is a top priority for cities and towns, because municipalities are counting on these funds to balance their budgets and maintain essential services for their residents.
CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $30 PER STUDENT
The Senate budget committee is proposing a $128.8 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid (this is $37.4 million higher than the $91.4 million increase in House One), joining the House in supporting a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget). The Senate budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. Further, the Senate Ways & Means Committee proposal would build on the proposals by the House and Governor to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework. In addition to increasing the cost factors for employee health insurance, the Senate budget committee would increase the cost factors for special education, which accounts for why the Senate W&M Chapter 70 proposal is $10M higher than the House.
Both the Senate and House budgets would provide $12M to hold school districts harmless from changes in the method of counting low-income students. This is similar to the Legislature’s handling of the problem in the current fiscal 2017 budget.
In the context of a very tight budget year, the Senate budget committee’s increase in Chapter 70 funding is certainly welcome progress. The MMA continues to give top priority to full funding for the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and over the long-term will work to build on this increase.
$16.5 MILLION INCREASE INTENDED TO FULLY FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another important budget priority for cities and towns, Senate leaders have announced that they support full funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program. The Senate budget plan would provide $293.7 million, a $16.5 million increase above fiscal 2017 budget and the Governor’s recommendation for fiscal 2018 (he proposed level-funding). The House added $4 million during its deliberations, and the SW&M proposal goes all the way to full funding. Every city, town and school district relies on the circuit-breaker program to fund state-mandated special education services.
FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS REMAINS FLAT
The SW&M budget would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5 million, far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2017 funding level is $54.6 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. If this program is level funded, the shortfall will grow to an estimated $76.4 million in fiscal 2018. This would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Solving the charter school funding problem must be a major priority during the budget debate.
REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, McKINNEY-VENTO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
Compared to current fiscal 2017 appropriations, the Senate budget committee’s proposal would level-fund Regional School Transportation Reimbursements at $60.1M, level-fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, add $1.25M to library grant programs, add $357K to METCO, and level-fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.35 million. However, the SW&M budget would reduce Shannon Anti-Gang Grants to $5 million, a $1 million reduction.
SENATE BUDGET PLAN INCLUDES IMPORTANT IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LOCAL AND STATE LODGING EXCISE TAX
The SW&M budget would make several long-sought improvements to close loopholes in the collection of the local and state lodging excise tax. First, the Senate budget proposes language to end the “internet reseller” loophole that allows Expedia and other internet resellers to avoid payment of the full hotel-motel tax. Second, the Senate budget closes the loophole for transient accommodations, including short-term seasonal rentals. Third, the Senate plan would begin to close the Airbnb loophole. These are important steps to bring parity and a level-playing field to the collection of lodging excise payments.
Please Call Your Senators Today to Thank Them for the Local Aid Investments in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Budget – Including the $40 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid, Providing Chapter 70 Minimum Aid at $30 Per Student, and Fully Funding to the Special Education Circuit Breaker
Please Explain How the Senate Ways and Means Budget Impacts Your Community, and Ask Your Senators to Build on this Progress During Budget Debate in the Senate