Andover schools will receive significantly more state money than officials expected.
State Sen. Barry Finegold referred to it as the highest allocation of education money ever from the state to Andover, and $608,804 more than the town planned for in its budget.
"There's the potential for the town having to go back to Town Meeting on this," to determine how the extra cash should be handled, said Finegold, who noted the town usually goes back to Town Meeting for the opposite reason — because it does not have enough money for what it needs to do.
This past week, Andover state legislators reported ratifying a budget that increases money being sent to Andover by over $1 million, one of the largest year-over-year increases in state education money the town has seen in its history.
"It's a step in the right direction," said state Rep. Jim Lyons. "Ultimately, what you have is a total state budget of around $32 billion. What we're doing is trying to get a bigger portion of that money back to the communities."
"Years ago Andover was disproportionally cut and we've been trying to get back to where we were," said Finegold. "In the early 2000s we had to make some difficult decision."
Local aid can be used to cover the costs of new programs or reduce the tax burden on taxpayers by reducing what has to be collected through property taxes, according to Lyons. Chapter 70 funding specifically targets school districts.
Last year the town received $6.9 million for education from the state. The House had recommended an increase of about $400,000 for Andover. This was the estimate Andover used to create its budget for fiscal year 2014, which began on Sunday, July 1. However, the state has approved $7.95 million in education aid for Andover, the number approved in the Senate version of the budget.
The budget also ensures that students with special needs receive the services and education they need, according to Finegold. Andover is eligible to be reimbursed for up to $2.5 million in special education costs, an increase of more than $200,000 over last year.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association applauded the legislature's FY2013 budget, saying: "By passing this budget, every legislator is demonstrating their commitment to local aid and their determination to invest in cities and towns as an essential step in the state's economic recovery."
Finegold said the money is available in part because more people are working in Massachusetts than in many other places around the country.
"Revenues are doing much better. No question about it," he said. "The rest of the country is [over] 8 percent [unemployment]. We're 6 percent, so the money is coming in."
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State education aid for Andover
Approved for FY '13$7,950,343
House version (FY '13)$7,341,539
Last year (FY '12)$6,928,057
Note: Andover is eligible to be reimbursed in FY '13 up to an addition $2,550,032 for special education costs, an increase of over $200,000 from last year.