Would cap school funding increases at 2.5 percent
DUDLEY – While local tax increases are capped at 2.5 percent annually, there is no such cap for Chapter 70 school funding, which can present communities with very high, unexpected budget increases. Last December Chairman Jonathan Ruda and the Dudley Board of Selectmen decided to do something about the problem of unfunded mandates, and now they have.
On March 29 State Representative Peter J. Durant (R-Spencer) filed a bill in the House that proposes to limit Chapter 70 increases to 2.5 percent, unless there is a ballot election override. The bill was co-sponsored by Representative Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer), making it a bipartisan effort. State Senator Richard T. Moore had originally agreed to co-sponsor the bill, but withdrew.
Mr. Ruda said, “Based on our previous conversations with him, we were disappointed to learn that Senator Moore declined to cosponsor the bill. I believe that Senator Moore understand the premise of the bill, the economically unsustainable nature of the current law, and we remain hopeful that he will support our effort in the State Senate to craft an alternative to the spending mandate that is crippling our ability to effectively and evenly deliver local services.“
He continued, "We are at the very early stages of this legislation. We consider a bipartisan effort in sponsoring the bill to be a sign of progress but we still have a long way to go. Identifying a significant source of the problem that local government has had for years in sustaining local services was the easy part. The difficult part is to force a conversation about reform at the state level. Local government needs the support of their communities to make it happen."
"Charlton signed on in support almost immediately, we received the support of six more towns almost overnight and I believe that the common sense nature of the bill will rally many more towns to urge their legislators to support common sense reform in our Chapter 70 spending mandate laws." The other towns supporting the legislation include Uxbridge, Oxford, Oakham, Freetown, Hardwick, and New Braintree.
"Representative Durant will be facilitating a meeting with the Charlton and Dudley Selectmen and the Dudley/Charlton school committee on April 25th. It's my hope that all involved will be able to agree on several points, not the least of which will be that this is not an anti-education bill, it's an anti-chapter 70 bill and that reform is necessary for the future prosperity of the towns and school district alike."
Following is the language of the bill:
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
An Act relative to establishing a limit for the municipal revenue growth factor..
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
Chapter 70 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 6 the following section:-
Section 6A. Preliminary local contribution shall be the municipality's minimum required local contribution, increased or decreased by the municipal revenue growth factor; provided however, that any contribution over 2.5 per cent shall require an override vote by the town at a ballot election.
If regional school district requests an additional contribution over the permitted 2.5 per cent, all of the municipalities affected by said increase shall be required to vote on the override at a ballot election. A majority of the municipalities must vote yes for the override to carry. In the event of a tie, the override shall fail.