HOUSE PASSES $32.4B BUDGET

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HOUSE PASSES $32.4B BUDGET

Postby dougsears on Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:53 pm

HOUSE PASSES $32.4B BUDGET

KEY LOCAL AID ACCOUNTS GAIN MILLIONS

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY TO ENSURE THAT LOCAL AID IS A TOP PRIORITY IN SENATE BUDGET

As the clock neared midnight on Wednesday, April 25, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass its version of the fiscal 2013 state budget, increasing key local aid accounts by $105 million compared to the budget submitted by the Governor in January. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is expected to release its own budget proposal in mid-May, and full Senate debate will begin on May 21.

The House budget would increase municipal and school aid by $105 million above the amount proposed by the Governor in January (H. 2). The House Ways and Means proposal guarantees funding for unrestricted municipal aid at $899 million, adding $65 million to the base Cherry Sheet distribution; adds $18.5 million to Chapter 70 to guarantee $40 per student minimum aid for all cities, towns and school districts; increases the SPED Circuit Breaker by $8.4 million; fully funds homeless student transportation at $11.3 million; and increases regional school transportation by $2 million. This is great news and a clear sign of the strong commitment of the members of the House to local government.

The Division of Local Services (DLS) has released updated preliminary Cherry Sheets for fiscal 2013 showing aid amounts for individual cities, towns and school districts based on the House budget committee bill. Local officials can view their preliminary House Cherry Sheets at http://www.mass.gov/dor/local-officials ... ry-sheets/

During the three days of debate in the House, members several passed pro-municipal amendments. Two stand out. The first is a comprehensive plan to update and fund the Community Preservation Act (CPA) filed by HW&M Vice-Chair Stephen Kulik and House Minority Leader Bradley Jones. The CPA amendment would allow cities and towns to use funds to repair and upgrade existing recreation areas, expands the qualifying sources of local fund that can be used for a state match, and increases funding for the state share of the CPA with an annual transfer of $25 million from any end-of-year state budget surplus into the CPA Statewide Trust Fund rather than an increase in the registry of deeds recording fees. The second amendment would increase funding for the Shannon Anti-Gang program from $2 million to $5.5 million.

In addition, the House members rejected several amendments opposed by the MMA, including amendments that would have diverted local aid to fund the state share of the police career incentive pay program, and another amendment that would have expanded collective bargaining by overriding existing management rights regarding the appointment, promotion, transfer and removal of employees.

The House-passed budget represents real progress for cities and towns, and it is imperative that the Senators embrace these investments in their version of the budget as well. Vital local aid decisions will be made in the Senate over the next several days, and we are asking local officials to contact their Senators today to make sure that local aid receives the highest priority.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL AID LEVELS PASSED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

HERE ARE THE KEY POINTS TO EMPHASIZE:

$65 MILLION FOR DIRECT MUNICIPAL AID: The House budget funds the Unrestricted General Government Aid account at $899 million, increasing the base appropriation on the Cherry Sheet by $65 million. The Governor proposed level-funding UGGA at $834 million, and tentatively providing a later supplemental distribution of $65 million in October if the state ends fiscal 2012 with a surplus. But with fiscal 2012 state revenues coming in below expectations, the $65 million is not guaranteed under the Governor’s plan, and communities wouldn’t have any idea how much aid, if any, would result in October, making it impossible to include the funds in fiscal 2013 operating budgets. The House budget would solve this problem by making the $65 million permanent and adding it to the base so that cities and towns can make full use of the funds for ongoing operations and essential services in their fiscal 2013 budgets.

After a municipal aid reduction of nearly $500 million since fiscal 2009, this increase is vitally needed to allow cities and towns to maintain municipal services and avoid higher reliance on the property tax. It is also important to note that the Committee’s recommendation recognizes the projected increase in state Lottery revenues for fiscal 2012 and 2013, and makes sure that cities and towns receive their Lottery dollars as intended in state law.

MINIMUM AID FOR CHAPTER 70: The House added $18.5 million to Chapter 70 school aid to ensure that all municipalities and districts receive an increase of at least $40 per student next year – under the Governor’s budget only one-third of communities and school districts received any increase, and this plan ensures that every district would receive a boost

SPED CIRCUIT BREAKER: The House added $8.4 million to the special education “circuit beaker” account to get closer to full funding. Under the Governor’s budget, the state would reimburse only 62% of eligible costs instead of the 75% in the law. The $8.4 million would increase the reimbursement rate to 68%.

FUNDING THE TRANSPORTATION OF HOMELESS STUDENTS: The House budget fully funds the $11.3 million mandate for homeless student transportation costs triggered by state acceptance of the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Without this new line-item the state would fail to end this new unfunded mandate.

SUPPORT THE CPA AMENDMENT: The House plan would increase CPA funding by $25 million, and allow cities and towns to leverage their own resources to improve existing recreation areas, purchase open space, protect historic assets, and expand affordable housing. The amendment reflects popular legislation that a majority of the Senate has co-sponsored in separate legislation.
dougsears
 
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