Published July 31, 2019
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Despite media reports of “huge increases” in state aid to cities and towns in FY 2020, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio says that looking at both sides of the Cherry Sheet ledger — especially the charges assessed against the community for Charter Schools — presents a far less rosy picture, at least for towns like Wakefield.
“The actual net dollar increase over last year is $198,002,” Maio said.
That’s just 2.2 percent more than the town received in FY 2019. Considering the increase in revenues that the state has been taking in, Maio had been expecting a total increase in local aid closer to 3 percent.
“On the expense side the culprit is the Charter School net cost of $757,944 in FY2019 versus $987,634 in FY2020, an increased net cost of $229,690 or 30 percent,” Maio said. “That seems outrageously high to me. This is an area that I will work on closely with the schools as well as our state delegation.”
The issue comes into sharp focus when isolating the receipts and charges on the Cherry Sheet related to education. The $357,658 increase in Chapter 70 funding this year might look like a windfall for the town. But if you subtract the $229,960 increase in Charter School assessments, the town’s net increase in state aid for education becomes a relatively anemic $127,968 for FY2020.
According to Department of Revenue numbers, the total amount of local aid that the town can expect to receive from the state in FY 2020 is $10,858,879. Of that $6,720,549 is Chapter 70 aid to public schools. The Charter School reimbursement, which the state provides to offset money that towns pay out when students choose to attend charter schools, is expected to be $251,914, an increase of $67,365.
In the General Government section of the Cherry Sheet, Wakefield stands to receive $3,577,383 in unrestricted local aid, an increase of $94,050 over last year.
Included in that amount is $107,100 from the state in Veterans benefits. (The state reimburses 75 percent of veterans benefits paid out by cities and towns. )
The state aid to libraries amount is $42,759, an increase of $1,297.
On the “Assessments and Charges” page of the Cherry Sheet for Wakefield, the total of all charges for FY2020 is $1,916,764. That includes the the aforementioned $987,634 Charter School assessment.
The next largest charge is $608,096 for MBTA services, an increase of $16,463 over FY2019.
Named for the cherry-colored paper on which it was originally printed, the Cherry Sheet is the official notification from the Commissioner of Revenue of the fiscal year’s state aid and assessments to cities, towns and regional school districts. The purpose of the Cherry Sheet is to ensure that local budgets reflect realistic estimates of the amount of revenue that a municipality and school district will actually receive from the state during the fiscal year, as well as the amounts that will be assessed upon local governments to pay for a variety of state programs in which they participate.
Gov. Charlie Baker has not yet signed the FY2020 state budget. His office is currently reviewing it line item by line item.