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Before releasing a proposed state budget next week, the Patrick administration on Friday said communities can count of the same amount of local aid next year as they received this year.
Addressing local aid at the annual Massachusetts Municipal Association conference, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray told municipal leaders the proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2013 includes level funding for overall local aid to cities and towns, but an increase in education money.
"Our budget proposes to fund local aid at $5.2 billion, including $4.1 billion for Chapter 70 education aid, which is a $145 million increase over this year and represents the highest level of state funding for K-12 education in the commonwealth's history,” Murray said.
Murray says he’s "cautiously optimistic" that state officials will be able to do what they did this year: request $65 million later in the fiscal year to supplement local aid.
Murray also says the state is able to increase some spending and maintain many services, largely because of slightly higher tax revenues and savings from things likes municipal health insurance reform. That reform law, which allows municipal workers to be moved into the larger state employee health insurance pool, has saved $60 million since it passed last year.
Many municipal leaders are praising the changes and welcoming the local aid announcement.
"It's not going to be easy but it's going to be less hard this coming year," said Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon. "Frankly I'm very pleased to see the increase in Chapter 70 and holding everything else level."
But the Patrick administration does not expect everyone will be as happy with the state budget. Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez says the state's economy is still on the rebound.
"We're not talking about a budget gap,” Gonzalez said. “I don't have a budget gap number for you. The concept that if we were to do nothing to try to contain costs, costs would be higher next year, is a fact. So we have to take steps to try to keep cost growth under control."
Gov. Deval Patrick releases his spending plan Wednesday.
This program aired on January 20, 2012.
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