STATE HOUSE – Whitman-Hanson and other regional school districts will get a major boost in school transportation funds under the state budget expected to be finalized next week, announced Sen. Tom Kennedy, Rep. Josh Cutler and Rep. Geoff Diehl.
The budget for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year includes $70.3 million for regional school transportation across the state. Whitman-Hanson will receive $749,610 in regional school transportation aid, a 26% increase over the current fiscal year amount of $550,452.
These funds are used to reimburse school districts for the costs of transporting students and have been perennially underfunded by the state in years past. With the current increase municipalities will be reimbursed at a 90 percent level, marking the highest rate in the program’s history.
The extra funds will help the district restore some of the difficult cuts made in the recent school year due to tight budgets and modest increases in Chapter 70 funding. In Hanson for instance the extra funds will help the district restore elementary teaching positions in arts and library.
“Implicit in the promise of regionalization is a commitment from the state to fund student transportation costs. That promise has been slow to be fulfilled which is why I am thrilled we were able to achieve such a significant boost this year, “ said Rep. Cutler, a member of the legislature’s Regional School Caucus.
“As the Whitman-Hanson School District continues to grow and attract new families to the area, it’s imperative that we are able to provide reliable and affordable transportation for students,” said Senator Kennedy. “The increased funding is a positive step forward in offsetting any further cuts to the School’s academic departments.”
Rep. Diehl added, “State mandates often unfairly tie the hands of our regional school districts, especially in the area of student transportation. This increase is long overdue and certainly a positive step to provide equity to our regional schools.”
The state budget was passed in both branches last month and signed by the Governor. Pending any veto overrides it will be finalized no later than July 30 when formal sessions of the legislature end.