Legislature OKs increase in local aid
For the first time in six years, the state House and Senate have passed a local aid resolution, committing to increase aid to cities and towns by $25 million, with another $100 million increase in school aid in the budget year that begins July 1.
“That’s a done deal. We’re telling you this is how much you’re going to get in those two big accounts,” Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, told selectmen from Franklin and Hampshire Counties at a joint selectmen’s association meeting Thursday night.
The resolution is nonbinding, however.
Kulik, who is House Ways and Means vice-chairman, said “volatile” revenues in the recent recession years kept state budgets rising and falling, but with about a 4.9 percent increase in state revenue expected to add about $1.1 billion to state coffers, “We wanted to give you some numbers you can base your (town) budgets on, going to town meeting.”
Gov. Deval Patrick proposed about $100 million in additional education aid in his budget proposal earlier this year, which legislators endorsed this week, Kulik said. For “minimum aid” communities and districts, he said, that adds about $25 per pupil.
Patrick level-funded unrestricted local aid in his proposed budget.
Other state aid, like payment in lieu of taxes, regional school aid, “special-ed circuit breaker” and homeless student transportation are not included, but will be dealt with in the budget process, scheduled to come before the House next month and the Senate in May.
The governor’s budget proposal recommended level funding for regional school transportation and payment in lieu of taxes, he said.
“I don’t think, when you see a final budget coming out of the Legislature, you’re going to see either level funding or cuts, as the governor proposed, because we know how important those are to these communities,” said the Ways and Means chairman, who said the budget picture ahead looks better than it has in the past several years.
Kulk also told selectmen at the gathering at the Whately Inn that both legislative branches had approved $300 million for Chapter 90 road funding in its five-year transportation bond bill it passed last year, still awaiting the governor’s signature. Last year, Patrick balked at the $300 million approved in the last bond bill, originally authorizing only $100 million in road money, which many small town highway departments depend on to keep local roads repaired. After an outcry, Patrick approved $200 million.
“I’ll bet if you drove here, whatever direction you drove from, you learned firsthand tonight how much our local roads need that investment,” Kulik said. “We are adamant in the Legislature that we want $300 million spent statewide over a multiyear period. The governor is saying, ‘No way’ ... He’s not going to give you more than $200 million. The speaker, the Senate president, are taking the governor on in this,” said Kulik, encouraging town officials to press Patrick for the additional money.
The local resolution provides $4.4 billion in Chapter 70 school aid and $945.7 million in unrestricted local aid.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service is included in this article.)