Early Thursday morning, the House of Representatives approved a $47.7 billion state spending plan for fiscal 2022.

For municipal and school aid accounts, the final House budget included few changes from the recommendation released by the House Ways and Means Committee in early April.

The budget matches the governor’s proposed 3.5% increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, significantly increases Chapter 70 school aid and charter school reimbursements, and includes $55 million for new education-related grant programs.

After consolidating more than 1,100 amendments into seven categories, House members voted to increase spending by $59.8 million over the Ways and Means proposal, bringing the total to $2.1 billion above the budget plan the governor filed in January.

The House endorsed amendments to create a reserve for cities and towns impacted by the federal shortfall in aid for military families, and to create an earmark for school districts facing extraordinary special education costs.

Two operational amendments would allow the METCO program to carry over funds from fiscal 2021 to be used by the end of the calendar year and would extend the deadline for municipalities to appropriate fiscal 2021 early voting implementation funds.

The House also approved more than $6 million in earmarked spending for programs and projects in cities and towns across the state.

On the main local aid accounts, the House budget matches the House-Senate local aid agreement of early April. Unrestricted General Government Aid would increase by $39.5 million, or 3.5%, matching the projected growth in state tax collections and consistent with the state revenue-sharing practice over the last several years.

The House budget meets the House-Senate commitment to fund the Student Opportunity Act at one-sixth of the implementation schedule rather than one-seventh, as originally proposed by the governor in January, providing a total of $5.5 billion for Chapter 70 aid. The joint agreement also would provide $40 million for a one-time, targeted grant program for school districts adversely affected by student enrollment decline during the COVID-19 public health emergency and $15 million for summer school and student mental health support. The MMA is asking lawmakers to address the enrollment issue by appropriating direct Chapter 70 funding based on previous enrollment levels, so that cities and towns can be confident that their Chapter 70 aid will reflect actual enrollment in the coming year.

The House budget would increase the Special Education Circuit Breaker account by $22.5 million, level-fund regional school transportation, and add $1 million for the McKinney-Vento transportation program for homeless students.

The House added another $37 million for charter school mitigation payments, but did not adopt an amendment supported by the MMA to fund charter school mitigation payments using the original Student Opportunity Act schedule (which would have made fiscal 2022 year two of the original three-year schedule). Rising charter school assessments are continuing to present major issues for many school districts.

The House included an additional $1 million for public libraries and added $1 million for regional public libraries. Payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land (PILOT) would increase by $2 million.

The Division of Local Services posted preliminary Cherry Sheet numbers for cities, towns and regional school districts based on the House Ways and Means budget.

The preliminary Cherry Sheets provide estimates for Chapter 70 aid, charter school assessments and mitigation payment amounts, but the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has not yet provided updated Chapter 70 calculations for each district, which means that specific required local contribution amounts are not yet available.

The state budget bill is now before the Senate, where the Ways and Means Committee is expected to release its recommendation in mid-May.

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