Sunday, March 25, 2007

A minor quibble

The Mass Budget and Policy Center is a fine organization that gives generally sound analysis of Massachusetts budget issues.

I'd like to quibble over a detail in their analysis of the the governor's budget for FY08.

The new cost in FY 2008 of paying for inflation and enrollment changes is $127 million. That is the number that our analysis uses as the baseline education cost increase.
$127 million is indeed the number that the spreadsheet spits out if every method of aid allocation other than mandatory increases to fill in every town and regional school district from required local contributions up to the foundation budget level is disabled.

However, looking at the "Comparison to FY07" table, zooming over to the change of aid from last year column, we find that only 143 out of 328 districts receive any increase at all, while 181 are unchanged.

Summing the foundation budgets for the districts that do receive an automatic aid increase this year, I calculate that as $4.5 Billion, or about 55% of the total. Implying that a comparable percentage increase for the other 181 towns and regional schools would bring the inflation-only baseline up to $232 million, or about $32 million more than Patrick's proposal.

The legislator's preliminary announced goal was for a $255 million increase over last year, including 2nd year committments to fund target local share reform.

Neither my corrrection nor the Mass Budget Center's is really a good estimate of inflation, for that we should compare foundation budget costs between last year and this, and there, I find a 4.8% increase, compared with a $3.63% figure corresponding to the baseline increase of $127 million. So we could estimate a $169 million increase as the inflation cost. That implies that the foundation budget has indeed been truly adjusted for school cost inflation; some suspect that the foundation budget has not really been keeping up with the minimal cost of an acceptable school, because doing so would force the state to make significant additional "baseline" foundation aid allocations.

I'd go with a number closer to $232 million, if we want to give the 181 towns that did not automatically receive additional aid an increase comparable to the 143 that did in the baseline budget.


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