Framingham and Ashland legislators passed a $38.1 billion state budget Wednesday, delivering funding for several local priorities, including increases in school funding.
“We’ve shown a real commitment to our young people and to the MetroWest with this budget,” state Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) said. “I’m very grateful to the work of the delegation, particularly Senator Spilka, who was instrumental in the budget negotiations. Together, we made great strides for MetroWest families.”
“The legislative delegation,” said Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham), “after years of incremental gains on Chapter 70 parity, passed a budget today that approaches our target share giving Framingham the resources needed for our schools, local aid, special education funding, and transportation. This is a very solid and beneficial budget that is mindful of the bottom lime but is proactive and fair.”
“These budget line items are more than just numbers. They represent values, priorities and meaningful tools for people across MetroWest and the Commonwealth,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We invest in the future, strengthening pathways to educational opportunity from early education through college and workforce training. We provide assistance for those struggling with opioid addiction and help people find stable housing solutions. The Earned Income Tax Credit increase is a big step to address rising income inequality and put more money in the pockets of hard-working families. My goal when I became Chair of Senate Ways and Means this year was to create a budget to lift all families. This final budget accomplishes that goal.”
The budget includes an additional $4,133,403 for Framingham schools, a 12.3 percent increase from last year. It also includes a $2.5 million reserve fund for underfunded schools, as determined by the state school funding formula. Framingham qualifies for the additional funding from the reserve fund.
Ashland school funding increased $62,350 from last year. On top of that increase, Ashland schools also received an additional $500,000 to mitigate student overcrowding.
Ashland’s Decisions At Every Turn (DAET), a substance-abuse prevention group, also received $20,000.
The special education circuit breaker, which reimburses schools for high-cost special education services, received a 5.5 percent increase.
Several legislators’ statewide priorities were also included.
Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment, an initiative that allows students with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities to enroll in mainstream college courses, was funded at $1.2 million. Sannicandro filed an amendment to the House budget, cosponsored by Walsh and Gentile, for that amount.
An initiative that trains people with disabilities for mainstream jobs called Transitions to Work, also an item sponsored by Sannicandro and cosponsored by Walsh, was funded as well.
The budget also included a 13 percent jump for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), which provides legal assistance to low-income clients. MLAC consistently brings in more federal funding than it’s allocated. According to the MLAC annual report, in fiscal year 2014, federal revenue for MLAC clients totaled $8.6 million, and state savings was estimated at an additional $14.3 million, including $8.5 million in avoiding shelter costs for low-income residents facing eviction. The amendment for more MLAC funding was co-sponsored by Sannicandro, Walsh, and Gentile.
The budget funds every state service for the fiscal year, which runs from July 2015 to June 2016. A temporary budget was passed last month to ensure funding continued for the beginning of July.