GOV. BAKER FILES $39.5B FY 2017 BUDGET
- UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID WOULD INCREASE BY $42 MILLION (4.3%)
- CHAPTER 70 AID WOULD INCREASE BY ONLY $72 MILLION (1.6%)
- MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS LEVEL-FUNDED
Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker submitted a $39.55 billion fiscal 2017 state budget plan with the Legislature, proposing a spending blueprint that would increase overall state expenditures by 3.5 percent, as the new Administration seeks to close a projected $635 million structural budget deficit by restraining spending across the board.
The Governor’s budget includes a $42 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, and $72 million more for Chapter 70 school aid. Most other municipal and education aid accounts in the Governor’s budget proposal would remain at fiscal 2016 levels. This includes the special education circuit breaker, payments-in-lieu of taxes, regional school transportation, Shannon anti-gang grants, McKinney-Vento reimbursements and METCO funding. Kindergarten development grants would be level funded, with language to have the state develop guidelines to have recipients focus on early literacy outcomes.
The Governor would increase funding for charter school reimbursements by $20.5 million, yet proposes to revamp the reimbursement formula so that this increase would be targeted to those cities, towns and school districts whose charter cap exceeds 9 percent of net school spending because of underperforming test scores.
• Click here to see the UGGA and Chapter 70 Aid amounts listed by community in the Governor’s budget:
• Click here to see the Division of Local Services preliminary fiscal 2017 Cherry Sheet aid amounts for your community, based on the Governor’s proposed budget (you will need to insert the name of your community and “2017” in the fiscal year field):
• Click here to see DESE’s calculation of fiscal 2017 Chapter 70 aid and Net School Spending requirements for your city, town, or regional school district, based on the Governor’s proposed budget:
UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID INCREASED BY $42 MILLION
In a major victory for cities and towns, House 2 (the Governor’s fiscal 2017 budget submission) would provide $1.022 billion for UGGA, a $42 million increase over current funding. This fulfills one of Gov. Baker’s major campaign promises to increase direct municipal aid by the same rate of growth as state tax revenues.
The $42 million would increase UGGA funding by 4.3 percent. This would be the largest increase in discretionary municipal aid in nearly a decade. Every city and town would see their UGGA funding increase by this 4.3 percent growth rate.
CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID WOULD GO UP JUST 1.6 PERCENT
The Governor’s budget submission proposes a very small 1.6 percent increase in Chapter 70 education aid of $72 million, providing every city, town and school district with a minimum increase of at least $20 per student. The Governor’s budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. The overall Chapter 70 increase would be significantly smaller than in recent years. Nearly 70 percent of cities and towns would only receive an increase of $20 per student under the Governor’s budget. This below-inflation increase is far too low, and would force communities to reduce school programs or further shift funds from the municipal side of the budget.
Please ask your Legislators to support a funding increase for Chapter 70 school aid that ensures that all schools receive a suitable and appropriate increase in fiscal 2017, which the MMA believes should be at least $100 per student. The MMA also strongly supports implementation of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum spending standards for special education and health insurance costs for school employees, and to add to the spending standard a measure of recognition for the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner (ELL) 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. Increasing minimum aid and fixing the inadequacies in the foundation formula are essential.
It should also be noted that House 2 contains language that would continue to allow communities to count retiree health insurance toward their net school spending, but only if they have done so beginning when the school finance law first went into effect in 1994, or if they have already voted to adopt the local-option provision in section 260 of the fiscal year 2015 general appropriations act to allow a phase-in of retiree health insurance costs in their net school spending calculation.
SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER UNDERFUNDED
The Governor’s budget would level-fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $271.7 million. Because special education costs are expected to rise by 3.5 percent in fiscal 2017, this means that the Governor’s budget likely underfunds reimbursements by approximately $10 million. This is a vital account that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The Legislature has fully funded the program for the past four years, and the MMA will again be asking lawmakers to ensure full funding in fiscal 2017.
$20.5 MILLION MORE FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS
The Governor’s budget would add $20.5 million to charter school reimbursements, bringing funding up to $101 million. In fiscal 2017, all communities would receive 100 percent reimbursement for their increased charter school tuition payments above fiscal 2016 levels. For most communities, the current 5-year reimbursement schedule would be replaced with a one-year reimbursement of increased costs compared to the previous year. For underperforming school districts that have a charter cap that is higher than 9 percent of Net School Spending, the Governor is proposing a 3-year schedule, to reimburse those communities 100 percent in the first year, 50 percent in the second year, and 25 percent in the third year. Local officials will need to examine their own enrollment and tuition costs to determine how this new formula would impact them. The estimate of both the tuition amount and the reimbursement amount for each community are available on the Division of Local Services’ preliminary Cherry Sheets at the following link: https://dlsgateway.dor.state.
REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
Gov. Baker’s budget submission would level-fund regional transportation reimbursements at the $59 million amount. This will be a hardship for virtually all communities in regional districts.
KINDERGARTEN GRANTS & McKINNEY-VENTO REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
The Governor’s budget would level fund reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students at $8.35 million. With this amount of funding, the account remains far below the full reimbursement called for under the state’s unfunded mandate law. Kindergarten development grants would be level funded at $18.6 million, with language to have the state develop guidelines to have recipients focus on early literacy outcomes.
PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT) AND SHANNON GRANTS LEVEL FUNDED, LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS CUT $79K
The Governor’s budget would level fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, Shannon anti-gang grants at $7 million, and fund library grant programs at $18.9 million, a reduction of $79,000.