By Ray Hershel
(CHICOPEE, Mass.) (WGGB)–State Auditor Suzanne Bump releases the results of a statewide survey showing that unfunded state mandates are costing cities and towns more and more money. Those costs total more than 11-million dollars this fiscal year.
Massachusetts participates in a federal program in which cities and towns are required to provide transportation and education of homeless children after they are placed in a different community for temporary housing.
For example if a student in one community is left homeless and moved into a motel in another city or town then both communities share the cost of transporting that student to school.
And those costs are adding up.
Three of the top six cities in the state for spending on homeless transportation and education costs are in Western Massachusetts.
Springfield was second spending $562,650, Chicopee third at $431,333, and Holyoke sixth at $311,050.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump has written a letter to Governor Patrick and members of the legislature urging the state to fully fund this mandated cost for cities and towns.
This is welcome news for those communities says Alvin Morton, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services in Chicopee, ” I think it would be good news, that way maybe we can set aside some money to deal with the unknown factor and may help in the classroom because a lot of kids come in with deficiencies in their education because they’re moving around a lot,” says Morton.
So it appears that the ball may soon be in the legislature’s court about funding these mandates that are costing cities and towns more and more money.
State Senator Michael Knapik (R), 2nd Hampden-Hampshire District, will have a vote on the matter,” This is clearly money out of the classroom, money out of personal accounts, cities and towns are cash strapped and I think we have a fundamental obligation to pay for this mandate and that’s really what the auditor has determined by this ruling that someone other than cities and towns have to foot this bill,” says Knapik.
In Chicopee for example, transportation costs for homeless students is up 43 percent from a year ago.