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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The House and Senate today voted to approve and send to the governor a fiscal 2020 state budget bill that was released by a special budget conference committee last night.
Funding levels for many municipal and school aid accounts are higher in the Legislature’s final budget than in the recommendation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker in January, providing $128 million more for key municipal and education programs.
Gov. Baker now has 10 days to review the budget bill and make decisions on what to approve, veto or return with proposed changes. Legislators will then have until the end of formal sessions this year (in November) to consider whether to accept or override those changes.
• Link to the Legislature’s website for details on the final budget (H. 4000), including Unrestricted General Government Aid and Chapter 70 amounts for individual communities and school districts (in Section 3)
The final budget bill (H. 4000) maintains the $1.129 billion appropriation found in the governor’s, House and Senate budget bills for the Unrestricted General Government Aid account, an increase of $29.7 million (2.7 percent) over fiscal 2019.
H. 4000 appropriates $5.176 billion for Chapter 70 education aid, a $281 million increase over fiscal 2019 and $68 million more than the amount proposed by the governor in January.
The budget would fund the basic requirements of Chapter 70 education aid and make significant progress on the 2015 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 community and district Chapter 70 funding levels match the distribution numbers approved in the Senate budget in May.
H. 4000 would also supplement Chapter 70 by providing $10.5 million for a reserve fund to provide assistance to communities affected 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 would distribute these funds to communities early in the school year. H. 4000 states the Legislature’s intent that districts that received more than $500,000 under this program in fiscal 2019 should receive similar levels in fiscal 2020.
H. 4000 would fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $345 million, a $25.7 million increase over last year. The circuit breaker program provides state support for services provided to high-cost special education students. The final version of the budget matches the Senate’s funding level.
H. 4000 appropriates $115 million for Charter School Impact Mitigation payments, a $25 million increase over the current year. 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. 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 would make several changes to the Charter School Impact Mitigation program, including changing the current six-year reimbursement program (at 100 percent in the first year and 25 percent in each of the next five years) to a three-year framework (at 100 percent in the first year, followed by 60 percent and 40 percent). H. 4000 also includes a $7.5 million allocation to communities where net charter school tuition costs exceed 9 percent 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.
H. 4000 appropriates $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.
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.
H. 4000 appropriates $11.1 million 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.
H. 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.
H. 4000 appropriates $11 million for the Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program, a $3 million increase over fiscal 2019.
The Legislature’s final budget would increase recording fees at the registries of deeds to raise an estimated $36 million for the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund. This change would more than double the base percentage match for all 175 CPA cities and towns beginning in November 2020. H. 4000 would also set aside up to $20 million from the fiscal 2019 budget surplus (if any) to supplement the matching funds that will be distributed this fall.