Resolution on Level Funding of Local Aid Rejected

Massachusetts State House

Last week the legislature announced that they would be cutting local aid to cities and towns by up to 4%. This is on top of deep cuts last year which fell disproportionately on cities and towns, and spared budgets at the state level.

Legislative Republicans drafted a resolution which would level fund local aid and give cities and towns specific guidance. Passage of this resolution would help ensure that this year, needed budget cuts would happen at the state level – where they belong.

The resolution establishes:

1. Establish a minimum level of Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Local Aid equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. The minimum Chapter 70 appropriation must equal $4,048,324,258 for FY11; and
b. The minimum Unrestricted Local Aid appropriation must equal $936,437,803.

2. Establish a minimum level of funding for each of the following accounts to equal the amount proposed by the Governor for FY’11

a. Reimbursement to Cities in Lieu of Taxes $27.3 million
b. Regional School Transportation $40.5 million
c. Special Education Residential Schools $135 million

But on Thursday the Democratic legislative leaders ( Rep. Robert DeLeo, Sen. Therese Murray,  Rep. Charles Murphy, and Sen. Steven Panagiotakos ) blocked the resolution from even coming to the floor. The resolution was not even debated. This gives them political cover. Now we will never know who would have voted against this resolution. When your legislator comes to town to campaign this fall I’m sure they will all claim they were in support of level funding local aid. But you will never know for sure. This is why we need reform.

The statement by the House and Senate leadership was vague and unhelpful:

Continuing the Legislature’s commitment to supporting core services at the municipal level through state-funded local aid payments, Steven Panagiotakos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Charles Murphy, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, announced today an agreement on levels of support cities and towns can expect in the upcoming fiscal year. According to the agreement, municipalities will receive no more than a 4% cut in their Section 3 local aid in the upcoming fiscal year and all school districts can count on being funded at their foundation level of support.

It gives no details about how much will be cut in any given town making it difficult for them to plan. These cuts – if they happen – will result in layoffs of teachers and police in most towns. If  that is going to happen the towns need to know now, so they can plan their budgets. Those of us with kids in school know we are already planning the school schedule for next year. How can we know if elective like foreign language or after school programs will be cut unless the budget is known?

There is one thing you can do – find out if your legislator supported this resolution – did they sign on to it? Even without a debate, signing on to the resolution ahead of time is a test of courage to stand up against legislative leaders for the interests of their constituents.

If they didn’t sign on you need to ask them “why?” And its not too late to make them draft another one.

If cuts do indeed come to your kid’s school you will want to know you did everything you could to avoid them.

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