Around Town

Rep. Velis update

Rep. John Velis

Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a great week and enjoyed the nice weather (finally)!

Because the House passed the annual road maintenance funding bill this past Wednesday, I thought this would be a good time to discuss local aid funding in Massachusetts and to specifically go over two of our most important sources of local aid to cities and towns: Chapter 90 capital improvement funds and Chapter 70 Education funding.

Local aid money is money distributed by the state to assist municipalities in providing government services. Although cities and towns collect property and other taxes, it is often still not enough to cover the cost of many vital government functions. Therefore, in order to ensure that all citizens have access to these services, the state redistributes much of its revenues to local government for both general and specific purposes.

By far the biggest portion of local aid comes from Chapter 70 Education funding. While school districts are expected to contribute a portion of their own foundation budget from municipal revenue, this amount varies based on a formula. The Chapter 70 formula is a hot subject for debate at the moment and will likely experience some big changes in the coming year, but at present it considers factors like enrollment data, relative income level, and student demographics. Relatively wealthier municipalities receive a lesser percentage of their school’s foundation budget from the state, while economically disadvantaged districts receive a much higher percentage of their budget from local aid. This is meant to ensure that every municipality has at least the minimum amount they need to provide a quality education to its students. In fiscal year 2019, Westfield is projected to get about 56% of its foundation budget from Chapter 70.

Chapter 90, also based on a formula, is a reimbursement program for municipalities to aid in roadway improvement projects. As you might guess, the formula is heavily based on road mileage (58.33%), but also takes into account population and employment statistics (20.83% each). The state has made available $200 million a year in Chapter 90 funds since 2012, with Westfield set to get about $1.2 million for the current fiscal year. It is up to cities and towns to decide which projects take priority every year and may fund projects through other revenue sources, as well.

Of course, there are many other local aid programs available to cities and towns for other purposes, but Chapter 70 and Chapter 90 are by far the ones I hear about most from my constituents. If you’re curious about local aid or have any questions about anything else, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 413-572-3920 or [email protected]. Have a wonderful week and I hope to see many of you at the 350th celebration!

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