By SCOTT JACKSON
Massachusetts lawmakers continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic but will maintain local aid to cities and towns in the current fiscal year and even plan to increase funding for schools.
The legislature has yet to approve a budget for fiscal year 2021, which began July 1, relying instead short-term budgets to keep the state open in the interim. Despite the uncertainty, Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday said he and legislative leaders have agreed not to cut local aid in the current fiscal year.
“Obviously, we’re working to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 and how it will affect the commonwealth’s own fiscal situation. That has caused delay with respect to the release of a final and full fiscal 2021 budget, however, we do know that cities and towns rely on the state’s budget so they can have clarity with respect to state aid to schools and other general government services,” the governor said.
“For fiscal 2021, our administration and the legislature are committed to providing cities and towns no less than the fiscal year 2020 funding for unrestricted general government aid and school aid funding.”
In addition, Baker said he and legislative leaders have agreed to provide an additional $107 million in Chapter 70 money, which is used for education, to municipalities.
“This agreement, in addition to the federal aid dollars distributed to all cities and towns, adds up to well over $1 billion in new funds to ensure schools can fund the changes that they need to make to teach kids this fall,” Baker said
The extra $1 billion local communities will receive, the governor added, will more than fully fund the Student Opportunity Act that lawmakers approved in January.