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Legislature Passes Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, Funds Programs and Services for MetroWest and Statewide

July 1, 2014

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a $36.5 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2015, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced. The budget includes funding for core state services, local aid for cities and towns and investments in the critical areas of mental health services, housing and homelessness programs, early education and care, veterans services and public transportation improvements. The budget also takes steps to address challenges that children and families face across the state, including increased funding for substance abuse treatment, recovery and prevention and funding for child welfare services.

“The final budget we passed today makes important investments in programs that are vital to our children, families and communities,” said Senator Spilka. “MetroWest has a strong legislative delegation that has worked well together to protect and serve the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable, while encouraging continued economic growth across our region and the state. We’re funding the basic services that keep our cities and towns running and also investing in innovative new programs.”

“This budget invests in our state’s future through local aid, K-12 and higher education, as well as programs that are vital to our community,” Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) said. “Our vote in support of the 2015 budget today is a step forward to ensuring every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”

“This budget emphasizes funding for cities and towns while planning for the future by paying down pension debt and investing in technology to improve efficiency,” said Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston). “I’m pleased that we prioritized the needs of our communities while also laying a foundation of sound fiscal management that supports continued economic growth.”

“I am pleased with this balanced and fair budget that provides the entire Commonwealth, especially the Fifth Middlesex District, with imperative local aid and public school funding without raising taxes,” said Representative David Linsky (D-Natick). “We received the necessary funding to keep our cities and towns running to the highest of standards.”

“The final FY15 budget invests significantly in early education, local education aid, workforce training, essential social services programs and many projects that I worked on diligently over the past several months,” said Representative Tom Conroy (D-Wayland). “With too many Massachusetts families struggling to make ends meet, we must continue to create opportunities for working families to move up and move ahead, and this budget does that.”

“This budget addresses a number of concerns that have arisen in Massachusetts over the past year,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin). “At the same time, we have been successful in providing some increases in local aid, education, and public safety matters. It was also great to see that some of the local needs in Franklin and Medway were part of the final budget.”

The budget prioritizes local aid for cities and towns, including funding for MetroWest schools, police and fire departments and other core local services. Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for cities and towns will increase by $25.5 million over last year’s budget, and Chapter 70 education funding will increase by at least $25 per pupil for every school district. The budget also fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker to reimburse towns for special education costs, and funds 90% of the reimbursement to local school districts for regional school transportation costs.

In addition, the Foundation Budget Review Commission, established in 1993, has been revitalized and charged with convening to determining the educational programs and services necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s educational goals. The Commission will hold public hearings a file a report recommending ways our community resources can be most effectively utilized to prepare all students for success in higher education, the workforce and life.

The budget also includes a transfer of $25 million from the FY 2014 end-of-year surplus to fund the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund state match, supporting local open space, historic preservation and outdoor recreation projects in communities in MetroWest and state-wide.

The budget also includes funding for many notable programs, services and policy initiatives serving the entire Commonwealth, including:

  • $18 million for substance abuse prevention education and treatment programs
  • $15 million to expand access to early education for low income families
  • $65 million for the state’s low income housing voucher program
  • $21 million increase for state universities and community colleges
  • $1.5 million for the STEM Pipeline Fund, which encourages and trains students across the state to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math to help meet the demands of the Commonwealth’s knowledge economy

Senator Spilka and members of the MetroWest delegation were pleased to advocate for funding for MetroWest initiatives and programming, including:

  • $30,000 in funding for the Natick Veteran’s Oral History Project to continue collecting video-taped interviews of veterans from across the state to provide a historical record.
  • $22,000 in funding for a hydraulic analysis of the dam in Choate Park in Medway.
  • $50,000 in funding for the Hopkinton 300th Anniversary Celebration Committee.
  • $60,000 in funding for the installation and operation of solar powered school zone safety lights in Franklin.
  • $100,000 for a pilot program at the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority for a Commercial Driver’s License training program to address the growing need for a proficient and technically competent public transportation workforce in MetroWest and state-wide. The pilot program will actively recruit veterans, people with disabilities, economically disadvantaged individuals and minorities.
  • $100,000 in funding for the New Beginnings program that targets youth at risk and in recovery in collaboration with school districts.
  • $200,000 to fund the Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State University.
  • $400,000 in funding for the MetroWest College Planning Center to be administered by Framingham State University and Massachusetts Bay Community College to renovate the historic 1812 House in Framingham.

Senator Spilka successfully advocated for several amendments to further strengthen the budget and support important initiatives serving children, families and communities state-wide, including:

  • $8 million for a salary reserve for human services workers, necessary for a modest salary increase for direct care workers earning under $40,000, who work tirelessly on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents and are a critical component of the state’s human services safety net.
  • $7.7 million and language to ensure the necessary funding for the full implementation of a network of Family Resource Centers providing services to children struggling with behavioral, mental health and substance abuse issues. The Family Resource Centers are part of a years’ long effort to create a new Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES) system to better serve troubled youth and their families. Children and families receive services in their home communities instead of the court system. This change also allows the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to work with local police to provide emergency assistance to runaways and at-risk children late at night and on weekends.
  • $100,000 to help the Best Buddies Massachusetts program to extend peer-to-peer inclusion programming in schools for individuals with intellectual disabilities
  • Creation of a commission on zero emission vehicles, including electric and fuel cell vehicles, with the goal of expanding access and removing barriers to the use of these more environmentally friendly vehicles.
  • Increasing legal aid funding to $15 million to cover costs of legal representation for poor and disadvantaged individuals in Massachusetts, supporting high quality legal services and justice.
  • Funding to help support seniors living at home in their own communities and a 10.6% increase in funding for local Councils on Aging.
  • Additional funding for the Department of Children and Families to hire more social workers and reduce caseloads for each individual social worker.
  • Creation of a commission on zero emission vehicles, including electric and fuel cell vehicles, with the goal of expanding access and removing barriers to the use of these more environmentally friendly vehicles.
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