ALERT TODAY FROM THE MASSACHUSETTS MUNICIPAL ASSOCIATION ABOUT THE BUDGET –
We will get more that was originally proposed by either the Governor, the House or the Senate.
LEGISLATURE’S CONFERENCE COMMITTEE RELEASES FISCAL 2020 STATE BUDGET WITH MORE FUNDING FOR MANY LOCAL AID ACCOUNTS
HOUSE AND SENATE INCREASE KEY EDUCATION AND MUNICIPAL AID ACCOUNTS BY $128M ABOVE THE ORIGINAL BUDGET FILED IN JANUARY
PLEASE CONTACT THE GOVERNOR TODAY TO SUPPORT LOCAL AID FUNDING AND KEY MUNICIPAL ISSUES
July 22, 2019
Dear Osler Peterson,
On Sunday evening, July 21, the fiscal 2020 state budget conference committee that has been meeting since early June released H. 4000, the House-Senate compromise budget bill that is expected to be approved later today (Monday, July 22) by the Legislature.
Funding levels for many municipal and school aid accounts are higher in the Legislature’s final budget than in the recommendation (H. 1) filed by the Governor in January, providing $128 million more for key municipal and education programs. The Governor has 10 days to review the budget bill and make decisions on what to approve and what to veto or send back with proposed changes. Legislators will then have until the end of formal sessions in this calendar year (in November) to consider whether to accept or override those changes.
Please call the Governor’s office and ask that he approve the municipal and school aid accounts in the Legislature’s budget bill, including those funding levels that are higher than what he recommended in January, when the outlook for state finances was less positive than it is today.
You can find the Chapter 70 and UGGA amounts for your community in Section 3 of H. 4000, beginning on page 271 of the printed version of the budget, or on page 279 of the downloadable PDF.
Later this week, the Division of Local Services will notify communities of their final Cherry Sheet receipts and assessments. When available, Cherry Sheets will be posted on DLS’s website.
Here is a summary of the key priorities and local aid increases for cities and towns:
Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA)
In a continuing victory for cities and towns, H. 4000 appropriates $1.129 billion for the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) account, an increase of $29.7 million over the fiscal 2019 level of funding. The 2.7 percent increase reflects the policy of increasing general municipal aid at the rate of growth in state tax collections reflected in the consensus tax forecast. This revenue sharing policy has been adopted by the Governor and the House and Senate since fiscal 2016, and is a key priority of the MMA’s.
Chapter 70 School Aid and Local Contributions
In a major step forward for many communities, H. 4000 appropriates $5.176 billion for Chapter 70 school aid (7061-0008 and section 3). This is a $281 million increase over the current fiscal 2019 funding level. This will fund the basic requirements of Chapter 70 education aid, and makes progress by more aggressively implementing the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, including higher funding for health insurance and special education costs, and significant increases in funding for communities with a high number of economically disadvantaged students. The budget continues to fund the target share provisions for those communities where the local contribution exceeds the target share level, and funds minimum aid at $30 per student. This Legislature’s budget provides a Chapter 70 increase of $68M above the amount originally proposed by the Governor in January. The community and district Chapter 70 funding levels match the distribution numbers passed in the Senate budget in May. We recognize that most communities will continue to remain minimum-aid-only districts, in spite of this impressive and appreciated statewide Chapter 70 increase, and the MMA will continue to prioritize higher minimum aid funding going forward.
- 4000 also supplements Chapter 70 by providing $10.5 million for a reserve fund to provide assistance to communities impacted by changes in how low-income students are counted. This amount is not included in the section 3 Chapter 70 distribution, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will distribute these funds to communities early in the school year, with the Legislature stating their intent that those districts that received over $500K under this program in fiscal 2019 should receive similar levels in fiscal 2020.
Special Education Circuit Breaker
In a significant win for cities and towns, H. 4000 fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker Program at $345 million. This is the program through which the state provides support for services provided to high-cost special education students. This is critically important, and represents a $25.7 million increase above last year’s general appropriations act. The Governor had proposed level-funding, and legislators in both branches proposed increases intended to move toward full funding. The final version of the budget matches the Senate’s funding level.
Charter School Impact Mitigation Payments
- 4000 appropriates $115 million for Charter School Impact Mitigation Payments, a $25 million increase over the current year. This is a big step forward in terms of overall funding, and is certainly appreciated, although the program remains significantly underfunded and charter school finance remains a major problem for many cities and towns. Winning full funding for this program and overhauling the existing charter finance scheme remains a top priority for MMA. Each year, dozens of cities and towns lose more funds to charter schools than they receive in new Chapter 70 funding, making them “net negative aid” communities.
Cities and towns will need to review their final Cherry Sheets to determine how much of the mitigation payment funding they will receive. The Legislature’s budget makes several changes to the overall program. First, they change the current 6-year reimbursement program (100-25-25-25-25-25) to a 3-year framework (100-60-40), apparently keeping the current cost-based approach, instead of moving to a number-of-students approach as proposed by the governor (MMA strongly supports the cost-based method). Second, they include a $7.5 million allocation to those communities whose net charter school tuition costs exceed 9% of net school spending AND whose Chapter 70 aid is a lower percentage of their foundation budget than the statewide average. Third, they include a $7.5 million allocation to be distributed by DESE to communities who have experienced high and sustained growth in charter school enrollments.
Again, it will be necessary to review final Cherry Sheet numbers to see how H. 4000 funds each district’s charter school mitigation needs.
Regional School District Student Transportation
- 4000 appropriates of $75.9 million to reimburse regional school districts for a portion of the cost of transporting students. This is a $7 million increase over fiscal 2019, and gets closer to the full funding target of $90 million.
Rural School Aid
The Legislature’s budget includes a $2.5 million account to provide one-time funding for rural schools, many of which are struggling with fixed costs and declining enrollment. H. 4000 includes language that would require DESE to make recommendations for future funding in fiscal 2021.
McKinney-Vento Homeless Student Transportation
- 4000 appropriates $11.1 million for this account to reimburse municipalities and school districts for a portion of the cost of transporting homeless students as required under state and federal rules. This is an increase of $2 million over the fiscal 2019 appropriation.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes on State-owned Land
- 4000 appropriates $30 million to pay a portion of the payment-in-lieu-of taxes amount due to cities and towns to offset the property tax exemption for state-owned land. This is a $1.5 million increase over fiscal 2019, although some communities will still experience challenges due to changing valuations by the state.
Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program
- 4000 appropriates $11 million for the highly effective and valuable Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program that has helped cities and towns respond to and suppress gang-related activities, a $3 million increase over the current year.
Community Preservation Act
The Legislature’s final budget increases recording fees at the Registry of Deeds to raise revenues for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) Trust Fund. This would provide an estimated $36 million in new funds to more than double the base percentage match for all 175 CPA cities and towns beginning in November 2020. In addition, H. 4000 would set aside up to $20 million from the fiscal 2019 budget surplus (if any) to supplement the matching funds that will be distributed in the fall of 2019.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact MMA Legislative Director John Robertson at 617-426-7272 ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Contact Gov. Baker and Ask Him to Approve the Legislature’s Local Aid Increases as Described Above.
Thank you very much!