Senate Ways and Means Budget Released.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its budget draft for Fiscal 2014 today.

It shaves total formula local aid  overall just slightly, but some communities that have historically been shortchanged, notably Watertown, do a little better.  In addition to making adjustments in the main local aid accounts it fully funds the special education circuit breaker.

Debate on the budget will begin next week.  We welcome your comments in this forum, but if you have specific amendments that you are hoping to have us offer, please call our office by phone, 617-722-1280,  by Friday, May 17 at ten AM at the latest.

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

2 replies on “Senate Ways and Means Budget Released.”

  1. As a Belmont resident, I can’t say I’m thrilled. Belmont’s increase in Chapter 70 aid seems to be only 2.5%, which is (again) not commensurate with annual cost increases needed to provide for level services in the schools. It seems that Watertown and Arlington’s increases are substantially larger (~18-24%); the other places you list (Boston, Cambridge) are smaller. Why the disproportionality?

    General government aid seems to be constant from FY2013 across the board, which, given inflation, effectively means more cuts in the services that can be provided.

    I am not sure of the significance of “fully funding” the special ed circuit breaker– could you unpack that a bit, indicate a comparison with FY13, and explain what it means in dollar terms? Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Alex,

    For background, please see this very detailed explanation of Chapter 70 issues that I put together last year. Basically there is an old wealth model and a new, more accurate wealth model. We are going through a transition from the old to the new, but the transition has been delayed by the recession.

    Here is the central language from Section 3 of the Senate Ways and Means budget about the computation of Chapter 70 for the coming fiscal year:

    For fiscal year 2014, chapter 70 aid shall be:

    (i) for any district that: (A) has a target aid percentage greater than the sum of a district’s prior year aid and foundation aid increment as a percentage of foundation budget; and (B) has a combined effort yield as a percentage of foundation budget of not more than 140 per cent; the sum of prior year aid and 25 per cent of the difference between the district’s target aid amount and the sum of prior year aid and the district’s foundation aid increment;

    (ii) for any district with a positive foundation aid increment not included in (i), the sum of the district’s prior year aid plus the district’s foundation aid increment; and

    (iii) for all other districts: the sum of foundation enrollment multiplied by 25 plus prior year aid.

    Certain districts, Watertown among them, have, been short-changed under the old wealth model and the transition language to the new has not served them. Clause (i) of the language above is designed to say that the legislature will close 25% of the gap between what these districts should get under the new model and what they are getting. I’ve been lobbying hard all year to address this and this does represent some progress, although not all of what I’ve been pushing for.

    Watertown and Belmont are of comparable wealth, but Watertown, even under this year’s Senate numbers, is getting substantially less aid as a percentage of its foundation school budget (14.0%) than does Belmont (16.3%). Cambridge also gets less (12.4%) than it is entitled to under the new wealth computation (17.5%), but it is so wealthy that it is excluded from the benefit of the gap closing formula, so it only gets the $25 per student increase from clause (iii) above.

    Arlington is a different story, flowing through line (ii). It is getting more (21.7%) than it is entitled to under the new wealth model (17.5%). It’s big increment in aid is, in part, a reflection of rising enrollment reflecting their conversion to full day kindergarten.

    Boston is yet a different story, flowing through line (iii): It gets substantially more (27.9%) than it is entitled to under the new wealth model (17.5%), but has no special enrollment dynamics and is getting a minimum increase.

    The special education circuit breaker benefits Belmont to the tune of almost $1,000,000 per year. Again, a complex computation — see this detailed explanation I prepared in 2011 for background — it depends on Belmont’s special education spending levels which vary year to year.

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