School Finance: Transportation
Advisory on Non-Resident Vocational Transportation
The Legislature has reinstituted the requirement that cities and towns provide transportation for certain students enrolled in out-of-district vocational programs [St. 2004, c.393]. This long-standing requirement had been repealed in July 2003 as part of the municipal relief legislation [St. 2003, c.46, s.84].
- Chapter 393 was approved on November 9, and the requirement takes effect as of that date.
- The requirement only applies to students who are enrolled in an out-of-district vocational program under the provisions of M.G.L. c.74 s.7 (generally, students who do not have access to an equivalent program in their home district). It does not apply to students enrolled in an out-of-district program under school choice.
- The provision enacted earlier this year [St. 2004, c.149, s.130] to permit a user fee of not more than 50% of the cost has been repealed. Students may not be required to pay a fee for this transportation.
- Transportation does not need to be provided if the student lives less than one and a half miles from the school.
- As was the case prior to the 2003 repeal, the required transportation must be provided by the city or town where the student lives. The necessary funds may be budgeted either in a municipal account or as part of the local school committee's budget. If the city or town belongs to a regional school district, the municipality and the regional district may enter into a voluntary local agreement for the regional district to provide the required transportation.
- The new law provides for full state reimbursement of the costs of providing this transportation, subject to appropriation. Reimbursements will be made in the following fiscal year. For FY05, the Legislature has appropriated $1.6 million. Cities and towns will be reimbursed later this year for their FY04 costs, net of any fees collected, as reported on the FY04 end of year financial returns. FY05 costs will be reported on the FY05 end of year returns and reimbursed in FY06.
- We will be asking municipalities to provide us with estimates of their expected FY05 costs, so that we may provide the Governor and Legislature with an estimate of required FY06 funding.