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School Finance Review commission to take up Chapter 70 dispute

By Brendan Clogston

 

After several days of dispute between the city and school department over a $2.5 million Chapter 70 payment from the state, Mayor Carlo DeMaria will now send the question to the School Finance Review Commission for an “independent assessment,” according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

Though the item is not officially on the agenda as of press time, the School Finance Review committee will next meet on November 1.

The move comes after a few days of back-and-forth over the funding, as the school department contended that the money was earmarked specifically for schools and the city claimed that it had already fully funded the schools with some of its own money earlier this year.

The additional Chapter 70 money was awarded by the legislature earlier this year to help cover some of the funding shortfall from the state’s flawed local aid formula. Chapter 70 contributions, though earmarked for schools, are procedurally sent to the City. The School Department then formally requests the funds, at which point the Mayor will pass the transfer on to the City Council for approval.

The City has received the funds from the state, and the School Committee voted to request the money at their October 10 meeting, but Mayor Carlo DeMaria announced earlier this week that he would not pass on $2.5 million in Chapter 70 money to the Everett schools. The City, he argued, had already fully funded the schools through the budget process in June with a multimillion dollar transfer. Now he intended to use these new funds to recoup the city’s losses from that contribution and reduce the tax rate, which is expected to increase by about 11 percent this year.

However, school officials are arguing that Chapter 70 funding is rightfully theirs, regardless of any prior financial assistance from the City. And despite the contribution from the City during this year’s budget process, the schools have remained chronically underfunded. Dozens of teachers and paraprofessionals have been laid off, and the schools have scaled back their programming, most infamously nixing their homecoming parade last month.

State Senator Sal DiDomenico released a statement this week arguing that the “purpose of this additional Chapter 70 funding was to be used for our public schools.”

“I have been advocating for more resources for our schools since the state formula was adjusted, and we have been successful,” said DiDomenico. “By definition Chapter 70 money is funding for our public schools, and that was the expectation when these funds were secured.”

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