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Lynn must spend $1.4M to receive an extra $15.1M in state aid

LYNN — The city’s chief financial officer, Michael Bertino, said the city fully intends to meet its additional $1.4 million obligation to unlock additional school funding from the state.

Lynn Public Schools could receive an extra $15.1 million in state aid for fiscal year 2020. But that new money comes with a catch; the city must increase its own net school spending to qualify for the increase.

In January, as part of the state budget that was filed, Gov. Charlie Baker recommended an update of the state’s foundation budget formula over a seven-year period, which the administration says would provide an additional $200.3 million in Chapter 70 funds, the major program of state aid to the schools, in the first year, or fiscal 2020.

“The (city) administration is going to absolutely meet its requirement under net school spending,” Bertino said. “We fully intend on funding the city’s portion.”

For Lynn, the school finance reform, if approved, could push its fiscal year 2020 Chapter 70 aid to $182.92 million, according to preliminary figures listed on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website.

With the increase in state aid comes a bump in what the city is meant to pay in its required net minimum contribution for school spending. The city would be on the hook to pay about $1.4 million more than its minimum required spending was last year, according to Bertino. That pushes the city’s net minimum contribution to $52.16 million for fiscal 2020, according to preliminary figures from DESE.

Bertino said final state budget figures, which will determine the city’s actual state aid and spending requirements, are to be released in three to five weeks.

“We don’t have any more state aid to follow, so we have to balance our budget from within our existing resources,” Bertino said.

In recent years, the city has struggled to meet its net school spending requirement. In fiscal 2016, the city was short by about $800,000 and was penalized. The struggle dates back to 2013, when officials were erroneously counting teacher retiree health insurance as an allowable cost toward net school spending. That forced the city to play catch up until 2017.

The proposed revamp of the state’s foundation budget formula, which hasn’t been updated since 1993, is meant to provide more support for school districts to meet the rising cost of health care, special education, and educating English language learners and low-income students by providing significant funding for districts with the highest need, such as Lynn.

Although the potential $15.1 million increase in state aid is more than the district has seen in the past, it’s far below the $47.1 million a report shared by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.) found Lynn Public Schools was underfunded by annually.

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