MMA statement on governor’s plan for $65M in mid-year local aid and school account cuts

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For Immediate Release
For more information, please contact MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith at (617) 426-7272, ext. 101

Earlier today, Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a plan to impose immediate mid-year cuts to close a $329 million state budget deficit that was disclosed two weeks ago. According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), the governor’s budget cuts would hit every city, town and local school district with an unexpected loss of more than $65 million in promised funding that is used to deliver important municipal and school programs.

“These cuts are very bad news for cities and towns in every corner of the state, and will shift the state’s fiscal problems onto communities in the middle of the fiscal year,” said MMA Executive Director Geoffrey C. Beckwith. “By slashing education funds that have been promised to reimburse communities for the cost of special education programs, charter schools and the transportation of students, these budget cuts will be harmful to schools, and the governor’s proposal to cut unrestricted municipal aid by $25.5 million would further hit local schools, because cities and towns use their local aid to fund local education budgets.”

The state is facing a deficit that is mostly the result of administrative and budget management issues at the state level, yet the administration’s plan would solve the state’s problem by shifting much of the burden onto communities. Using his statutory authority to reduce executive branch spending, Gov. Patrick has unilaterally cut more than $40 million in direct funding to cities, towns and school districts, and has asked the Legislature for the authority to cut an additional $25.5 million from Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), the major municipal aid account that was previously cut by $400 million during the recent recession.

The governor’s mid-year budget cuts have cut $40.3 million from the following municipal and education accounts that go directly to cities, towns and local school districts:
• $18.7 million from Regional School Transportation (a 27% cut)
• $7.1 million from the Regionalization and Efficiencies Reserve (a 49% cut)
• $3.86 million from Special Education Reimbursements (a 1.5% cut)
• $2.88 million from the Chapter 70 “Pothole” account (an 85% cut)
• $2.24 million from Vocational School Transportation (a 100% cut)
• $1.3 million from Public School Military Mitigation Grants (a 100% cut)
• $1.2 million from Charter School Reimbursements (a 1.5% cut)
• $1.1 million from Sewer Rate Relief (a 100% cut)
• $1 million from Extended Learning Time Grants (a 6.8% cut)
• $359,000 from Kindergarten Expansion Grants (a 1.5% cut)
• $287,000 from METCO (a 1.5% cut)
• $283,000 from Library Aid (a 1.5% cut)

According to an analysis by the MMA, every city, town and school district will be hit with one or more of the governor’s immediate budget cuts. In most cases, the cuts will feel much deeper because the reductions are being implemented five months into the fiscal year. For example, with only seven months left in fiscal 2015, a 10 percent cut in an account will translate into a 17 percent cut from now to the end of the year, and a 50 percent cut in a program will translate into an 85 percent reduction in remaining reimbursements due to cities and towns.

In addition to the $40.3 million in mid-year cuts to municipal and school accounts in the state budget, the governor has filed legislation calling for a $25.5 million reduction in Unrestricted General Government Aid, the main municipal aid account that goes to every city and town.

“We strongly oppose this proposed local aid cut because it would destabilize municipal and school budgets in the middle of the fiscal year and force reductions in community services,” Beckwith said. “Unrestricted municipal aid is already $400 million below fiscal 2009 levels, and any additional cuts will be painful for cities and towns across the state.

“On behalf of communities across the Commonwealth, we respectfully ask the Legislature to reject the Governor’s proposed municipal aid cut.”