Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, chairman of the House Way and Means Committee.
Haverhill will continue to receive help paying off the debt of the former Hale Hospital and the city will receive $3 million more in school aid if state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey has his way.
Dempsey, chairman of the powerful House Way and Means Committee, this week released the state House of Representatives proposed state budget. It includes, as it has for many years, $2.4 million in assistance to “offset the debt from the sale of the Hale Hospital.” Dempsey also touted the budget’s “focus on local aid and a significant increase in support for our schools.”
“The House budget proposal looks to increase support for our cities and towns and ensure that the resources are there to improve our school districts and strengthen our communities,” said Dempsey. “This budget proposal strikes a balance between investments and savings and demonstrates that we can maintain services and expand opportunities within the resources that our growing economy produces.”
The proposed budget gives Haverhill $9.4 million in unrestricted general government aid and $49.3 million in Chapter 70 education funding—an increase of $3 million from last year. “The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive $55 per pupil,” a statement said. The proposed budget also maintains full funding of the state’s share of the Special Education Circuit Breaker and increases investments in regional school transportation and charter school reimbursements.
City-owned Hale Hospital was sold in 2001, requiring taxpayers to absorb almost $85 million in debt, including workers’ pension and health care. Dempsey has secured $16.8 million in assistance for the City of Haverhill’ s Hale debt to date.
Budgets begin with the state House of Representatives. The house proposal must eventually be reconciled with the state senate and be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker by July 1.
Drug Treatment Programs Receive Boost
The proposed budget also increases drug treatment and services as the legislature tries to stem the tide of opioid overdoses. With the new budget, the state will have increased spending 65 percent since 2013. The amounts include a 13.5 percent increase in the statewide number of transitional support services beds and provides supportive case management services to an additional 500 clients per year. Dempsey’s budget would also provide $1 million to expand “a highly successful diversion program modeled on the efforts by the Essex County District Attorney’s office” and $2.5 million for statewide community policing grants that “will help get more officers walking the beat and involved in community engagement activities to prevent substance abuse.”
The proposal also supports the hiring of 281 new social workers and case managers at the state Department of Children and Families and provides a $5 million increase at the state Department of Developmental Services to support an additional 3,000 families that care for disabled members and living at home with flexible supports. The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program builds on the more than 300 percent increase in funding it has received since 2011 with $100 million in funding and 375 new vouchers this fiscal year.
“This budget proposal will continue to move our Commonwealth in the right direction, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House during the upcoming debate,” Dempsey said.