The Massachusetts Senate passed a nearly $56 billion budget for fiscal year 2024, including millions of dollars specifically for Lexington.
“I think it’s a great budget. I’m proud that it focused on things that are really important, like housing, healthcare, and education,” state Senator Cindy Friedman, who represents the 4th Middlesex district. “We did it in a meaningful way.”
Lexington is slated to receive over $17 million in funding for Chapter 70 education aid, the state’s major program for providing monetary aid to public elementary and secondary schools.
It is up to the Lexington school district to decide how they will spend the money, Friedman said.
Overall, the plan increases Chapter 70 funding for schools throughout the state by $604 million to an investment of $6.59 billion, including funding the Student Opportunity Act, designed to address disparities in student achievement across the state. The act was originally approved by the state Legislature in 2019.
Money designated for the special education circuit breaker, a separate line item, is also important for Lexington, Friedman said. The circuit breaker funds help cover the costs of providing special education services. The Senate’s budget allocates over $503 million state-wide for this fiscal year.
“It’s been funded at a level we haven’t seen for quite some time,” Friedman said. “(The circuit breaker funding) supports special education that Lexington will benefit from.”
Other Lexington-specific funding includes $75,000 for LexSeeHer, Inc., a nonprofit organization advocating for the recognition of women’s historical contributions, to aid in the construction and installation of a women’s monument. The monument will highlight “a wide variety of women’s contributions across the town’s 300-plus year history,” with a planned location on the Visitor Center lawn, according to the organization’s website.
Lexington is slated to receive $1.8 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), the state’s revenue-sharing program for communities to help pay for municipal services. Across the state, $1.27 billion has been allocated for UGGA, an increase of $39.4 million over fiscal year 2023.
Lexington’s allotment for UGGA is based on a formula that analyzes property taxes, the income of the town, and other factors, Friedman explained. Arlington is expected to receive over $9 million, with Woburn following closely behind with $7.1 million. Like the Chapter 70 funding, Friedman said that it is up to the town of Lexington to decide how to spend the UGGA money.
Housing is another major line item Friedman said will be beneficial for Lexington. The spending plan includes a $1.05 billion investment in housing to help address affordability concerns across the state.
“The more housing we build, the less pressure will be on the housing prices in Lexington,” Friedman said.
Lexington, Arlington, Billerica, Burlington and Woburn are expected to receive $50,000 to address issues of food insecurity within the district. The money will be delivered to Food Link, Inc., an Arlington food rescue non-profit that feeds under-resourced communities throughout Greater Boston. Friedman said a lot of the organization’s work has been done in Lexington. The inclusion of these funds comes just days after a study released by the Greater Boston Food Bank revealed that a third of Massachusetts residents are food insecure.
The Senate’s plan also includes $1 billion in earnings generated from the newly enacted Fair Share Amendment, known colloquially as the “millionaire’s tax.” The law went into effect in January and sets a 4% surtax on incomes above $1 million. The earnings will be put towards education and transportation initiatives, including $100 million for expanded financial aid for in-state students attending state universities, and a pilot program providing free community college for nursing students.