Submitted by State Senator Michael Barrett
State Sen. Mike Barrett and legislative leaders have announced a local aid agreement for Fiscal Year 2015. The plan, which covers Unrestricted General Government Aid and Chapter 70 education aid, guarantees a roughly $125 million boost for these two accounts.
Under the resolution Bedford’s education funding from the state goes from $3,907,693 to $4,145,009, a 6% increase. Bedford’s local aid funding, which communities use to fund a variety of government services, receives a boost from $993,887 to $1,021,449, a 2.8% jump. Overall, the resolution provides the town this upcoming fiscal year with an additional $264,87.
“Not only is there a bump in state money for communities in my district,” said Barrett, “but coming to the agreement now gives local leaders some certainty for the new fiscal year.” After passing the resolution in the Senate, Barrett directed praise at Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) for helping to pass it in the House.
The agreement calls for $4.4 billion in the Chapter 70 education fund — the largest appropriation in the program’s history. It’s a $99 million increase over the FY 2014 funding level, Barrett said. The resolution also includes $945.75 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid, a bump of more than $25 million over last fiscal year’s appropriation. This is the largest amount of unrestricted local aid since Lottery Aid and Additional Assistance were consolidated in FY 2009.
The education funding level will not only ensure that all school districts reach their foundation budget, but also provides additional aid to communities who receive less state aid than called for by the formula.
“It is our priority in the Senate to protect local aid funding and make sure that these figures are not reduced for the 2015 fiscal year,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “Our towns and cities rely on local aid for essential services and projects and it’s important that we provide them with these numbers early so they can effectively plan their budgets. As we move through this budget season, we will remain committed to meeting their financial needs.”
“The House is proud that it has continuously championed local aid,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “Municipalities are the backbone of our state and by taking early and comprehensive action we help cities and towns build a better future for the state. This year the House will again work to increase the local funding municipalities need and so rightly deserve.”
The joint local aid resolution ensures that FY 2015 will mark the third consecutive year in which both Unrestricted Local Aid and Chapter 70 have been increased, the first time since the onset of the recession.
“As a former selectman, I know that it’s critically important for cities and towns to get these numbers early in their budgeting processes, whether the numbers are good, bad or indifferent,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, (D-Barre). “However, I am pleased to say that these numbers are good. They represent our continued increase in support for our local governments and schools.”
“Local aid is an important component of municipal budgets, and we always work to maintain as much stability and predictability as possible for our cities and towns,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill). “This year we are able to provide not only increased funding but this joint resolution, which allows municipal governments to have a clearer picture of the fiscal landscape as they proceed to craft their local budgets.”