This article was submitted by Michael McClung, chairman of the Swampscott Finance Committee.
The finance committees of Nahant, Saugus, and Swampscott have called an unprecedented joint hearing to investigate the ongoing failure of the Commonwealth to fund Chapter 70 aid at the agreed-upon 17.5 percent minimum.
The three towns were scheduled to be brought up to 17.5 percent of their DESE foundation budget by the end of fiscal year 2010. The governor's newly announced draft 2013 budget, however, leaves all three below this threshold.
“Seven years ago we were promised a 5-year phase-in to bring us up to 17.5%,” said Swampscott Finance Committee Chairman Michael McClung. “Since then, we've lost ground, not made it up, and our property taxes increase to the difference.”
The three towns should have received nearly $9 million from the Commonwealth since 2007, under the agreement struck by the Legislature:
“Swampscott's shortfall this year alone is over $800,000 in Chapter 70 money. I don't see how we can keep going back to the taxpayer, year after year. Our property tax rate is already among the highest in the state. We need our elected officials to live up to their promises,” said McClung.
Chapter 70 is the primary Massachusetts state program providing aid to public elementary and secondary schools. The funding formula was established in 1990s, and then revised in 2006, when the legislature passed a minimum aid level set at 17.5 percent of each district's foundation budget. The shortfall for all communities below 17.5 percent was to be closed over five years, ending in 2011. Gov. Patrick and state Education officials are on record that the Chapter 70 formula “is broken.”
The joint meeting of finance committees appears to be an historic first for the region. The session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, 7:30 pm at the Lynn Chamber of Commerce, 538 Chestnut Street.