[Note: The following was submitted by Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose).]
On Wednesday, April 26th, my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives successfully passed a FY13 budget bill that embraces cities and towns as a top priority. The last four years have been an extraordinary challenge for state and local governments. I am happy to report that House budget for FY13 brings much-needed stability to municipal finances and public services at the local level.
The House budget contains $899M to fully fund the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA ) which municipalities rely on to balance their budgets each fiscal year. For Wakefield this translates into an additional $206,031 in UGGA from last year. Governor Deval Patrick proposed funding UGGA at $834 million, and plans to provide a later supplemental distribution of $65 million in October if the state ends fiscal 2012 with a surplus. The additional $65 million is not guaranteed under the Governor’s plan. The House budget provides the additional $65 million up front so that cities and towns can count on the money as they build their budgets.
I am also proud that the House budget places a high priority on education funding by increasing Chapter 70, special education circuit breaker and regional transportation funding. This budget guarantees all municipal, vocational and regional school districts an increase over FY12 Chapter 70 funding for a total increase of $164M to ensure that all municipalities and districts receive an increase of at least $40 per student next year. For Wakefield this translates into an additional$135,680 in Chapter 70 aid from last year. The House Budget will also assist districts in meeting their special education obligations by funding circuit breaker at $221.5M.
For the first time, the House has appropriated funds to offset the expense of the federal mandate (McKinney-Vento) requiring communities to incur the costs of transporting their homeless student population. For communities like Melrose and Wakefield, this money represents small but significant recognition that communities deserve help in meeting the cost of helping homeless students maintain access to a stable, quality education. For a community like Malden that spent $396,831 on homeless student transportation last year, this relief is a game changer.
The House budget also begins to reverse the negative trend in Metco funding by providing an increase of $500,000 over last year’s budget. Students and participating districts receive tremendous benefits from participating in the Metco program. This additional funding will ensure that the state continues to support the mission of Metco, which is to provide a strong academic foundation and a diverse social, cultural, and educational experience for all students and participating districts.
Cities and towns are a critical part of our state’s future. Local leaders know about the unique needs of their residents and how to build condition for economic progress in their communities. With proper resources to support education, public safety, and other local services, our municipalities will help lead the state as we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The House budget recognizes the value of the strong partnership between state and local governments and makes investments to ensure that we continue to move forward together.