Local government, school officials praise Mass. Senate budget
Municipal and school leaders hailed a state Senate budget plan that would boost key sources of aid for education and local government next year more than either the House or Gov. Deval Patrick have proposed.
The Senate passed its budget May 25.
Like a plan the House approved in April, the Senate's bill would guarantee more aid to cities and towns than Patrick, who proposed $834 million in local aid, plus another $65 million if enough money is left over in state surplus at the end of June.
Both the Senate and House would provide the additional $65 million upfront. The Senate plan also slightly boosts local aid over the House budget by roughly $1 million.
“It’s really an excellent budget for local government,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
In what would be a significant victory for superintendents and school committees, the Senate plan also would significantly boost funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program above the proposals from both Patrick and the House.
Funding for the program, which partially reimburses school districts for extraordinarily high special education costs, was cut more than a third from fiscal 2009 to 2010, from $230 million to $140.1 million.
“It’s just going to be a real boost to a lot of school districts that are having to make significant cuts,” said Tom Scott, executive director of the Mass. Association of School Superintendents.
The Senate's $242.2 million would boost the reimbursement rate from about 61 percent under Patrick’s plan to about 75 percent, Beckwith said.
“That will help everybody get a little something in a tough budget year,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Mass. Association of School Committees.
The Senate plan would boost Chapter 70 by about $180 million. The House had proposed increasing school aid by $164 million, or $18 million more than Patrick.
Some of the additional Chapter 70 money in the Senate plan would go to districts that “receive a smaller share of their foundation budget from the state than should be the case given their property and income wealth,” a budget summary says.
For Brockton and Fall River, that would mean no change in Chapter 70 compared to the House plan. Quincy would see a nearly $590,000 increase, for a total of $23.6 million.
Framingham would see an increase of $1.6 million and Milford would get an additional $423,600. Taunton would receive about $48,600 more than the House plan.
Altogether, the Senate budget proposal totals $32.4 billion. It includes no new taxes and closes a $1.4 billion budget gap.
Now the House and Senate must try to iron out differences between their budget proposals and send a final bill to Patrick.
(David Riley can be reached at 508-626-4424 or email@example.com.)