Though regional school districts could receive more money to pay for student transportation than they’ve received in years through Gov. Maura Healey’s current budget proposal, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees says it is still hoping for long-promised full help from the state.
The law entitles regional school districts, such as those in rural areas, to a 100% reimbursement for school transportation expenses, but state funding has consistently fallen short of this benchmark, leaving municipalities to pick up the expenses.
Locally, Pentucket Regional School District Superintendent Justin Bartholomew has repeatedly raised similar concerns during interviews over WHAV.
Association President Andrea Wadsworth said the state originally promised to reimburse the costs as an incentive to regionalize districts that take up large areas of land but have fewer students, where bus rides are longer and more expensive.
It has been funded around 65 to 75% for the past few years, meaning Healey’s commitment to cover 90 percent of the cost to get students to school was well-received by municipal leaders at the Local Government Advisory Committee.
“Historically, that’s been a bit of a seesaw, you know from 80% to 30, then 70, then 40—it’s very hard for our communities to really fund that gap every year. It really hits our bottom line,” said Andrea Llamas, town administrator for Northfield.
Bringing state reimbursement up to 90 percent involves increasing state contributions to student transportation from $82 million this fiscal year to $97 million in Healey’s proposed budget.
Wadsworth said she is excited about being reimbursed 90%, but the state should legally be paying 100%, especially since regionalizing has effects such as making bus rides longer for students, and the promised state reimbursement was intended to encourage regionalization.
Sam Drysdale, State House News Service.