GOV. BAKER FILES $44.6 BILLION FY 2021 BUDGET PROPOSAL
• $31.6M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (2.8%)
• GOV’S CH. 70 PLAN WOULD INCREASE FY 2021 SCHOOL AID BY $303.5M (5.9%)
• YET MANY DISTRICTS REMAIN MINIMUM AID AT $30-PER-STUDENT
• CHARTER SCHOOL & SPECIAL ED REIMBURSEMENTS INCREASE
• MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS LEVEL FUNDED
January 22, 2020
Dear Osler Peterson,
Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker submitted a $44.6 billion fiscal 2021 state budget plan with the Legislature, proposing a spending blueprint that would increase overall state expenditures by 2.3 percent, as the Administration deals with slow revenue growth by restraining most spending across the board and placing an estimated $310 million into the state’s rainy day fund. The budget relies on significant one-time revenues of at least $200 million from a sales tax “modernization” proposal, and an increase in the tax on transportation network companies.
UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID INCREASED BY $31.6 MILLION
As Gov. Baker pledged to local officials at the beginning of his administration, his budget includes a $31.6 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, tracking the expected 2.8% increase in state tax revenues. Implementing this state-local revenue sharing framework continues to be a significant victory for cities and towns, and is good news in a budget where overall state spending is held to a 2.3% increase.
OVERALL CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID WOULD GO UP BY $303.5 MILLION, A 5.9% INCREASE – ALTHOUGH A LARGE NUMBER OF DISTRICTS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN AT MINIMUM AID ONLY
Fulfilling the commitments in the new Student Opportunity Act, the Governor’s fiscal 2021 budget submission would bring Chapter 70 school aid up to $5.48 billion, a $303.5 million increase in school aid. This would fund the first year of the 7-year plan to add $1.5 billion in new state funding for K-12 education. The majority of the funds would implement the improvements to the foundation budget, adding weight for low-income students, English Language Learners, special education costs, and school employee health benefits. While this is important progress for some communities, an initial look at the budget indicates that a large percentage of cities, towns and school districts would remain minimum-aid-only, and receive the minimum $30 per-student increase in the Act. MMA members from across Massachusetts have unanimously adopted resolutions calling for at least $100-per-student in minimum aid for the past several years, and the MMA will continue to strongly advocate for significantly higher minimum aid throughout the budget process.
Click here to see DESE’s calculation of fiscal 2021 Chapter 70 aid and Net School Spending requirements for your city, town, or regional school district, based on the Governor’s proposed budget and legislation. This landing page will also include the preliminary fiscal 2021 charter school assessments and reimbursements
CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS WOULD INCREASE TO $138.2M – CHARTER FUNDING REMAINS A SERIOUS PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED
The Governor’s budget would increase the charter school reimbursement account up to $138.2 million, intended to meet the commitment in the Student Opportunity Act to fund 75% of the state’s 100-60-40 statutory obligation to mitigate Chapter 70 losses to charter schools. However, this appropriation does not include $15 million in special charter school reimbursement payments included in the fiscal 2020 budget to address significant hardships, such as excess losses to charter schools that result in a net cut in Chapter 70 aid for the public school system (non-charters).
The Student Opportunity Act pledges to phase in full funding of the statutory reimbursement formula over three years, and while this plan may meet that requirement, it would not fix the serious flaws in the charter school finance system. Charter schools will continue to divert a high percentage of Chapter 70 funds away from many municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Major problems will continue unless a true resolution of the charter school funding problem is achieved, a top MMA priority.
SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER INCREASED TO $362.5M
The Governor’s budget would add $17.4 million to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $362.5 million, an increase of 5%. The Student Opportunity Act expanded the SPED circuit breaker by including out-of-district transportation, a good win for cities and towns. This new transportation component is being implemented over four years, and the Governor’s budget proposal includes the 25% phase-in amount for the coming fiscal year.
However, the $362.5 million appropriation amount does not include $18 million that has traditionally been provided to support administration and state agency transportation costs for special education students, and these funds will need to be added in order to ensure full funding.
REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
Gov. Baker’s budget submission would level-fund regional transportation reimbursements at the $75.8 million. This will be a hardship for virtually all communities in regional districts. Reimbursements for transportation of out-of-district vocational students remains significantly underfunded at $250K. Increasing these accounts is a priority for cities and towns and the MMA.
McKINNEY-VENTO REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
The Governor’s budget would level-fund reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students at $11.1 million. The impact of this funding level will vary from community-to-community depending on the number of homeless families that remain sheltered in local hotels and motels. The Administration has been successful in reducing the number of homeless students who are dislocated from their original district, but those communities that continue to provide transportation to many students may continue to see shortfalls.
PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT) LEVEL FUNDED
The Governor’s budget would level fund PILOT payments at $30 million, which would be a significant hardship for many smaller, rural communities with large amounts of state-owned land. This is a key account due to the major impact that PILOT payments have on budgets in very small communities.
Please contact your legislators today and ask them to support the $31.6M increase in municipal aid and the $303.5M increase in Chapter 70 aid.
Please ask your legislators to address the serious flaws in charter school funding, increase minimum Ch. 70 aid to $100 per student, and increase funding for school transportation, PILOT payments, and ensure full funding for the SPED Circuit Breaker