Digging a step deeper, I find that the 43% of municipalities receiving an increase in the baseline spreadsheet account for 55% of the foundation budget. So, another guess at baseline that covers every school district, rather than 43% of school districts is a $230 million increase.
From another view, I see that the 143 districts that receive some increase account for $237 million of the 382 million increase in foundation from last year to this. From this view, 62% of inflation plus enrollment changes (that is, the total change of foundation budget) is covered in the baseline estimate of a $127 million increase. Plugging in to allocate the same treatment for the 183 zeros as the 143 “baseline” winners, we get $204 million, or about a $5 Million increase over the governor’s proposal, as a “baseline adjusted only for inflation and enrollment increases and applied more uniformly to include all school districts” figure.
OK, now that we’ve solved that problem, I’d like to
appropriate apply that $5 million beyond the governor’s proposal to resolve the regional school fiscal roulette problem across the state, where some towns are mandated by the state to pay up to 55% above what the state calculates as a reasonable share of the burden to their regional schools. I count 147 instances of towns with regional school assessments that remain at least 10% above target local share in this, the second year of target local share reform.
As it turns out, it is possible to reduce excess contributions down to 110% of target for many of these towns at a cost to the state of only $1.7 million, if the reduction is only made up to the threshold where it triggers additional local aid for the towns. That is to say, this effort reduction does not result in any new chapter 70 aid to any town. The $1.7 million of new aid all goes in the direction of target local share reform, to keep all regional schools spending at least at the foundation level.
A caveat about this reform: it only applies until the threshold where additional local aid is triggered. This means a few towns’ required contributions would remain above 110%. Thirty-eight, to be precise. Bringing those 38 all the way down to 110% would cost a lot more, though – I calculate another $49 million more. But for 26 of those 38, some additional reduction of excess effort accrues this year. If they are regional school members, their assessments fall some this year. Just as important, their required spending level is brought down to the threshold where Mass Budget and Policy Center attributes additional aid to “baseline adjusted for inflation and enrollment”. That is, next year, the state couldn’t use formulaic tricks like prorating “down payment” aid to prevent them from getting closer to their target local share of aid. So though this reform leaves some towns a bit behind where they could be if the state had $50 million to spare, even these towns are put on a more level playing field at the beginning of next year’s budget cycle.
Overall, at a cost of $1.7 Million above the governor’s proposal, it is possible to wring out $263 million from the total $496 million of “excess effort” – that is, an overall reduction of 53% of excess effort.
The governor’s proposal is to reduce excess effort by 30% of effort at a cost of $41 million.
The legislature’s optimistic goal is to reduce excess effort by 40% as well as applying full downpayment aid using last year’s formula, at a total cost $55 million above the governor’s proposal.
If I had the $15 million bucks to appropriate, I would also properly apply downpayment aid, but I’ve only got $3.3 million left.
The purpose of the downpayment aid formula last year was to assure a uniform allocation of the resources available for target local share reform, to the 199 towns that are patiently awaiting a restoration of fairness and balance in chapter 70 aid allocations across the state. A reform with the goal of increasing fairness shouldn’t make the towns furthest from their target required minimum contribution wait till next year to see any of their target local share of aid, while some other towns see a dollar for dollar increase of aid for each dollar of effort reduction. The downpayment aid formula has to be applied at the same rate as the effort reduction number plugged in to the spreadsheet, and using the same formula as last year, to fairly allocate funds available for target share reform.
So, three cheers for the senators and legislators willing to vote to keep last year’s downpayment formula. It’s the only fair vote, and if there is a choice between setting a higher “effort reduction” factor feeding the formulas or applying the available funds uniformly, please make the fair choice. The optimized cap formula described here allows you to dial back in additional total effort reduction of up to twice the governor’s 30% proposal, at little additional cost, if you want to exceed expectations for total effort reduction this year.
Total cost of this package: $216 million, or $39 million less than the legislature’s 40% plan, but it buys you 53% total effort reduction, and the same 30% effort reduction factor as applied by the governor, in addition to taking a huge step towards restoring equity in regional school assessments, and restores proper downpayment aid. And it does not reduce aid below the governor’s proposal for any town or regional district.
You can reach me at massparent at hotmail with questions, comments, or to review the modified spreadsheet model with this reform proposal