Senate budget plan includes $37 million increase in unrestricted municipal aid; increases Chapter 70 by $148 million to fund minimum aid at $30 per student; adds $38 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker account; adds $20 million for charter school impact payments; and adds $1.7 million for PILOT payments.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee today reported out a $41.4 billion fiscal 2019 state budget plan that would increase overall state expenditures by 3 percent.
The Senate bill is $61 million higher than the budget filed by the governor in January and $97 million less than the budget approved by the House last month.
The Senate is scheduled to debate the spending plan beginning on May 22.
The budget bill (S. 4) would provide significant progress on many local priorities, including the full $37 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid that the governor proposed and cities and towns are counting on.
S. 4 would increase funding for other major aid programs by adding $38 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, adding $20 million for charter school impact mitigation payments, adding $1 million for regional school transportation, and increasing Chapter 70 aid by $148 million more than the fiscal 2018 level.
• Link to Division of Local Services for preliminary local aid estimates based on House Ways and Means fiscal 2019 budget bill
• Link to Division of Local Services for preliminary education aid estimates for regional schools based on House Ways and Means fiscal 2019 budget bill
Unrestricted municipal aid
The Senate budget would provide $1.1 billion for UGGA, a $37.2 million increase over current funding. (This is the same increase proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker and approved by the House.) The $37.2 million would increase UGGA funding by 3.5 percent, which matches the projected growth in state tax collections next year. Every city and town would see its UGGA funding increase by 3.5 percent.
The Senate budget committee is proposing to increase Chapter 70 education aid by $147.7 million above current fiscal 2018 levels. This is $44.1 million higher than the increase in the governor’s recommendation, and $23.5 million more than the budget passed by the House in April. The budget bill includes a provision that every city, town and school district receive an increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student increase in the governor’s budget).
The Senate plan would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2006 and would do so on a more accelerated schedule than proposed by the governor and approved by the House. The bill would also build on formula changes proposed by governor and approved by the House to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework, by increasing the cost factors for school employee health benefits and for English Language Learners.
The MMA strongly supports minimum aid of $100 per student and implementation of all of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum spending standards for special education and employee health insurance, and to add to the spending standard a measure of recognition for the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner and other students who would benefit from more intensive services. The commission recommended phasing in the changes over a four-year period, a position the MMA supports as well.
In S. 4, Senate leaders have made clear that they support increased funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, with the intent to reach full funding next year. The Senate plan would provide $318.9 million, a $27.7 million increase above the governor’s proposed fiscal 2019 level of $291.1 million, and $37.7 million more than the $281.2 million fiscal 2018 level. This is a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services.
Regional school transportation
The Senate Ways and Means budget would add $1 million to bring regional transportation reimbursements up to $62.5 million.
Charter school reimbursements
The Senate budget bill would provide $100 million to cover charter school impact mitigation payments, higher than the governor’s recommendation to level-fund the program at $80.5 million and the House plan to increase funding to $90 million. While the increase is important, both legislative proposals remain below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2018 funding level is currently $73.4 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. An expanding shortfall would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96 percent of public schoolchildren.
PILOT, library aid, METCO, and Shannon grants
The Senate budget committee’s proposal would increase PILOT payments by $1.7 million to ensure that no city or town loses PILOT aid next year. It would also add $540,000 to library grant programs, add $500,000 for METCO, and level-fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.1 million.
The budget would level-fund Shannon anti-gang grants at $6 million.