House budget proposal would boost local aid and school accounts

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The fiscal 2014 state budget proposal released by the House Ways and Means Committee today would increase the main discretionary local aid account by $21.3 million and Chapter 70 education aid by $109.5 million.

The $33.8 billion spending plan (a 3.9 percent increase) is $1 billion less than the budget proposed by the governor in January, largely because it calls for just one-quarter of the new revenue that the governor had proposed.

The House budget relies on $500 million in tax increases – a plan approved by the full House late Monday night. The budget also relies on $719.5 million in one-time revenues and $350 million from the state’s stabilization account.

Unrestricted General Government Aid
The $21.3 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid would bring that account to $920.2 million and guarantee that cities and towns would receive all of their Lottery proceeds. (Lottery proceeds are projected to grow by $10 million in fiscal 2014.)

The House budget does not include a new “formula aid” account that was proposed in the governor’s budget bill. The governor’s budget had level-funded UGGA, while funding the new additional account – to be distributed under a new formula – at $31 million.

Because the House’s municipal aid increase is proposed in the existing UGGA program, these funds will be more predictable in future years, ensuring a stable source of direct, unrestricted municipal aid.

Chapter 70
On Chapter 70, the House plan would ensure that each school district is brought up to its foundation budget spending level and would address certain equity issues. At a minimum, all districts would receive an increase of $25 per student.

The House plan would fully fund the existing schedule to implement the Chapter 70 formula. It does not include the governor’s proposed formula changes and accelerated implementation schedule.

The governor had proposed expanding the Chapter 70 formula to give greater weight to out-of-district special education placements and eliminate the cap on pre-kindergarten students included in enrollment for formula purposes, and to accelerate the implementation schedule for the 2007 “target share” changes passed by the Legislature.

One hundred and fifty-one school districts would receive the same amount of aid under both plans, but, for many cities and towns, Chapter 70 is perhaps the largest difference between the House Ways and Means budget and the governor’s proposal.

The governor’s budget would use revenue from his proposed income tax increase to boost Chapter 70 by $226 million, while the House plan would fully implement the existing Chapter 70 formula through the current schedule.

For many districts, their Chapter 70 aid and minimum local contribution numbers would be different than under the governor’s budget bill. (These numbers are not yet available from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.)

Other municipal accounts
The House Way and Means budget would increase the special education circuit-breaker account to $235 million, $5 million above the governor’s proposed level-funding. (This account was originally budgeted at $242 million for fiscal 2013, but was cut by $11.5 million in December.)

The regional school transportation account would increase to $45.5 million, $1 million above the governor’s proposed level-funding. (This account was originally set at $45.5 million for fiscal 2013, but was cut by $1 million in December.)

Charter school reimbursements would be level-funded, which is approximately $10 million below the amount needed to fully fund the reimbursement formula.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program would be level-funded at $26.3 million, the same amount as proposed by the governor.

The appropriation to cover the mandated cost of transporting homeless students under the federal McKinney-Vento program would be level-funded at $6.1 million, reflecting the $5.2 million cut from the estimated full funding amount last December. The governor had proposed level funding of this account as well.

Library aid would be level-funded at $16 million, the same amount as proposed by the governor.

The House will begin debate on its state budget on April 22 and is expected to pass a plan by the end of that week.

The Senate is scheduled to complete its own state budget plan by the end of May, and the two branches will then work out their differences, with the goal of getting a final legislative budget to the governor in time for the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

Download Section 3, which lists Unrestricted General Government Aid and Chapter 70 amounts for each community (3.5M PDF)

Link to House budget website

Link to Division of Local Services for local aid estimates based on House Ways and Means budget proposal