Mass Governor Charlie Backer sits at a desk with 7 people behind him, handing a pen to a man on the right

Gov. Charlie Baker signs the FY20 state budget bill. (Photo: Sam Doran/State House News Service)

The $43.3 billion state budget for fiscal 2020, signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 31, increases Unrestricted General Government Aid by $29.7 million (2.7%) to $1.1 billion and Chapter 70 education aid by $269 million to $5.2 billion.

The budget act is based on projected state tax collections of $30.1 billion for the fiscal year, about $800 million more than the forecast that was used in the early stages of the budget process. The budget anticipates a year-end deposit in the state’s Stabilization Fund, which could bring the fund’s balance to $3.3 billion by the end of the year.

The final fiscal 2020 municipal and school aid Cherry Sheet amounts have been posted on the Division of Local Services website, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has posted calculations of various education accounts.

With the budget now signed, Gov. Baker is expected to file a final fiscal 2019 budget bill soon to close out the year that ended on June 30. The MMA has asked that a portion of surplus state revenue be used to fund one-time local capital programs, including road repair projects through the Chapter 90 program.

Education aid changes
The final Chapter 70 school aid framework for calculating local contribution and aid amounts this year includes another round of updates to the foundation budget spending standard, consistent with recommendations made by the Foundation Budget Review Commission in 2015. These include increases in the factors for school employee benefits (mainly health insurance), special education students, English learner students, and economically disadvantaged students.

Even with the foundation budget changes, however, about half of all school districts are receiving only the minimum new aid amount of $30 per student.

House and Senate leaders expect that a bill to make permanent changes to school finance law will be released and debated this year.

The fiscal 2020 budget fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $345 million, a $25.7 million increase over last year, and includes $115 million for Charter School Impact Mitigation payments, a $25 million increase over fiscal 2019. The budget makes several changes to the Charter School Impact Mitigation program, including changing the current six-year reimbursement program to a three-year framework. It also includes a $7.5 million allocation to communities where net charter school tuition costs exceed 9% of net school spending and where Chapter 70 aid is a lower percentage of the district’s foundation budget than the statewide average. The budget bill includes a $7.5 million allocation to be distributed by DESE to communities that have experienced high and sustained growth in charter school enrollments.

Even with a new shortened schedule for mitigation payments, the funding gap for fiscal 2020 is almost $100 million and affects 193 school districts.

The budget includes $75.9 million to reimburse regional school districts for a portion of the cost of transporting students, a $7 million increase over fiscal 2019 and closer to the full funding target of $90 million, and $2.5 million to provide one-time funding for rural schools, many of which are struggling with fixed costs and declining enrollment.

The budget law increases recording fees at the registries of deeds to raise an estimated $36 million for the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund.

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