Local Aid Increases, CPA Expansion Pass In State Budget

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By: Michael C. Bailey
Published: 07/06/12

The Legislature passed an operating budget ahead of the July 1 deadline, and the Fiscal Year 2013 spending package is now awaiting Governor Deval L. Patrick’s signature.

The $32.5 billion budget passed unanimously in the Senate and almost unanimously in the House, with only three state representatives voting against the plan. The entire Cape Cod delegation supported the budget.

Gov. Patrick has until July 10 to issue any vetoes, and as of yesterday he had yet to do so.

The budget included a $288.9 million increase in unrestricted local aid and Chapter 70 education aid. Local aid amounts for FY13 are:
•<2002>Barnstable: $7.4 million for Chapter 70 aid, $1.78 million in unrestricted local aid;
• Bourne: $4.77 million in Chapter 70, $1.2 million in local aid;
•<2002>Falmouth: $4.98 million in Chapter 70, $1.17 million in local aid;
•<2002>Mashpee: $4.27 million in Chapter 70, $311,456 in local aid;
•<2002>Sandwich: $6.5 million in Chapter 70, $954,422 in local aid.

The Upper Cape and Barnstaceive $5.28 million in Chapter 90 funding, which is for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges.

The Legislature also approved several items of direct benefit to Cape Cod, according to information provided by Senate President Therese M. Murray (D-Plymouth) and State Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich).

“This budget is the result of a lot of hard work and difficult decisions,” Sen. Wolf said in a press release. “It also includes strong support for many areas of special importance to our region.”

Perhaps the most important bit of funding will go to the Cape Cod Commission for the development of “smart mapping”
software for wastewater planning purposes.

The interactive tool, which will be accessible online by the public, uses land use and water use data, buildout data, and cost and rate projections to extrapolate various outcomes of different water quality management approaches in terms of cost to residents and effectiveness in reducing nitrogen loading. The software will be capable of generating models for wastewater management down to the level of individual parcels of land.

As a condition of receiving the funding, the mapping tool project must be completed by June 30, 2013.

“This funding will allow the Cape to take the next step in finding a solution to the region’s wastewater problem,” Sen. Murray said. “This is a very pressing environmental issue and it will threaten the vibrant tourist economy in the region unless action is taken. The towns have been trying to find a cost-effective solution for years and it’s important that we take the measures necessary to move closer to a solution.”

Sen. Wolf filed the amendment that resulted in this funding.

Regional tourism councils will share $6 million, the same amount as last year and $4 million more than Gov. Patrick proposed spending, but the Legislature boosted funding in the name of supporting economic growth.

“Tourism is one of the largest industries in Massachusetts and, by supporting our tourism industry, we will help grow our economy and add new jobs in the commonwealth,” Sen. Murray said.

“The Cape Cod Chamber is grateful for the recognition of the Massachusetts Senate by funding regional tourism marketing at an equitable level again this year,” said Wendy K. Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the statewide Regional Tourism Councils, noting that the state’s tourism industry “is helping Massachusetts achieve an economic recovery and has led job growth in the commonwealth.”

Figures provided by Ms. Northcross indicated that in February of this year, 4,800 new jobs—53 percent of the new jobs created in the state that month—were in the tourism (leisure and hospitality) sector.

Other local funding initiatives include:
• $200,000 for the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Committee, to support preparations for the canal’s 100th anniversary next year;
• $100,000 for the Hyannis-based Children’s Cove Child Advocacy Center, which deals with victims of child sexual abuse, for emergency support, continuing education and training for its staff, and an annual conference on child sexual abuse;
• $1.3 million for Bourne’s “education pothole” account, to offset the increased cost of educating in the Bourne schools children who live on the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
The final budget included amendments to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA) and the law governing the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

The CPA allows municipalities to tack a 3 percent surcharge on property tax bills to fund the purchase of open space, affordable housing projects, and historic preservation programs. Towns may also apply for matching funding through the state.

The amendments expand the number of appropriate uses of CPA funds to the rehabilitation of “active or passive recreational use” lands such as public parks and playgrounds, non-commercial public athletic fields, community gardens, and walking trails. The budget also includes a $25 million boost for state matching funds.

The new EBT regulations ban the use of EBT cards to pay for alcohol, lottery tickets, pornographic material, firearms, tattoos or body piercings, legal fines and fees, and bail; and outlines penalties for “food stamp benefits trafficking,” which includes an EBT card holder paying for restricted items with his card or a cardholder allowing another person to use his card.

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