The House and Senate today approved a $46.2 billion state spending plan for fiscal 2021 that was released late yesterday by a legislative conference committee.

The budget bill has been sent to the governor, who has 10 days to approve the spending appropriations and proposed law changes, or veto or return any items he opposes.

The budget generally adopted the higher amounts for the main municipal and school aid accounts and included several law changes that would impact local government.

The Division of Local Services has posted preliminary Cherry Sheets for cities and towns and for regional school districts based on the budget enacted by the Legislature.

With state revenues now expected to fall nearly $3.6 billion below the pre-pandemic estimate made last January, the fiscal 20121 budget plan is balanced using one-time federal funds, an accelerated sales tax collection plan, and a draw of approximately $1.7 billion from the state’s $3.5 billion stabilization fund.

UGGA and Chapter 70
The budget includes $1.13 billion for Unrestricted General Government Aid and $5.28 billion for Chapter 70 school aid – the same amounts as in the House and Senate budget bills approved in November and the July agreement on minimum funding for these two accounts.

Charter School Mitigation Payments (7061-9010)
The budget includes $117.4 million to fund reimbursements to offset part of the impact on local school budgets of assessments used to fund charter schools.

Special Education Circuit Breaker (7061-0012)
The budget includes $345.2 million to cover the current Department of Elementary and Secondary Education full funding estimate for this key school aid account.

Reimbursement for Homeless Student Transportation (7035-0008)
The budget includes $13.5 million for homeless student transportation, close to the DESE full funding estimate.

Reserve for Municipal Improvements (1599-0026)
The budget has $10.5 million for the municipal improvements account, including $3 million for the District Local Technical Assistance Fund and $1 million for the best practices incentive program administered by the Community Compact Cabinet.

Rural School Assistance Grants (7061-9813)
The budget has $3 million for grants to rural school districts to improve the long-term operational efficiency and effectiveness of public schools.

COVID Impact Assistance to Schools (7061-0027)
The budget has $53.1 million to provide additional assistance to school districts related to the impact of COVID-19 on school operations. The account would provide grants to school districts for assistance with COVID-related costs, including PPE, cleaning and hygiene supplies, expenses related to remote learning and socially distanced in-person education, and the provision of technology and other services to low-income and other vulnerable students.

The grants would be based on this formula: $25 multiplied by the district’s foundation enrollment, plus $75 multiplied by the district’s low-income enrollment. Communities would be required to hold the funds in a separate account, and the funds would be available for expenditure by the district school committee without appropriation at the local level.

Municipal COVID-19 response grants
A proposed appropriation for municipal COVID-19 response grants (1599-1233) was held by the conference committee and is not included in this budget bill.

Early Voting by Mail
The budget includes language (section 99) that would provide for early voting by mail in state and municipal elections through March 31, 2021.

Public Employee Post-Retirement Work During the Pandemic
The budget includes language (section 68) that would extend through calendar 2021 the waiver of the cap on hours worked and salary earned for retired public employees who return to work in the public sector.

PFAS Task Force
The budget would establish (section 98) an interagency task force to review and investigate water and ground contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across the Commonwealth.