Local Aid, FY2008

Just an update on what is happening with Chapter 70 aid this year. Chapter
70 is the principal form of education aid to cities and towns.

The governor made a relatively generous investment of approximately $200
million in increasing Chapter 70 aid – a 5.7% increase in a year when
overall expenditure growth is proposed to be 4%. This is not a radical
proposal, but certainly a strong commitment to local aid. Belmont,
Arlington and Cambridge all received the minimum increase of $50 per
student, which works out to an increase of 5.4% (near the statewide average)
for Belmont and slightly less for Cambridge and Arlington.

The distribution of aid, if not the total, is likely to change in the House.
I am hopeful that the changes may favor our communities.

The background is this:

Belmont, Arlington and Cambridge are all among communities that receive
Chapter 70 aid which is less than 17.5% of their state computed “foundation
budget”. Last year, an implicit commitment was made by House and Senate
budget writers to move all communities up to at least 17.5% over a five year
period. Low aid communities received a first 20% increment towards that
goal.

This year’s budget gives many (but not all) of these communities only the
minimum increase of $50 per student, resulting in many of them actually
receiving a smaller, not the expected larger, share of their foundation
budget (which goes up with inflation). Please see the attached spreadsheet
for detail.

The administration apparently relied on a Department of Education formula
which represents a change from last year. The change really doesn’t work to
spread the benefit evenly to communities in need. Some communities do much
better than the average.

We should see the House version in April and I will post an update then.

Best regards,

Will B.

P.S., For a more detailed understanding of the formula difference, compare
the following two DOE spreadsheets:

http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/chapter70/chapter_08p.xls (this year’s
proposal) and

http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/chapter70/chapter_07.xls (last year’s final
outcome)

Select your community on the index page, then look at the summary page on
these sheets. The basic difference is that, last year (07), the budget
moved towns toward the target level of 17.5% starting from the prior year’s
(06) aid level. This year’s proposal (08) moves from a starting point of a
complex computed number — “required district contribution” — without
reference to actual aid previously distributed. The computation of required
district contribution is quirky and historical.
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FY 2008 Chapter 70 Aid — Preliminary Analysis

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.