The Legislature's recently passed $541 million closeout supplemental budget for fiscal 2019 includes another $1 million rural school aid, for in fiscal 2020, for a total of $3.5 million in rural school aid this fiscal year.
State Rep. John Barrett is particularly happy that there is extra money in the state budget for MassHire career centers and he's hoping to expand on a pilot program for on the job training.
Barrett had gotten money for the Berkshire career center last year to pilot a workforce development program at McCann Technical School. The program engaged General Dynamics and is eyed to line up the job training programs with the needs of the company.
The Pittsfield school system was particularly a big winner in this year's state budget.
The state's budget includes a $5 million increase for Pittsfield schools over last year. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier called it a "downpayment" for significant increases to come in the next few years.
The big news in the state's budget is $5.18 billion in Chapter 70 aid for schools, according to state Rep. Paul Mark.
"That is the most in the history of Massachusetts and it is also the biggest increase year over year in this account," Mark said. "I think that is a really positive step toward what we have been working on getting this foundation budget changed."
Funded at $43.1 billion, H. 4000 makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $476 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund's balance to more than $3 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services.
State Sen. Adam Hinds secured money for the Berkshire Flyer, his rural school aid, and for numerous local organization in the Senate budget.
The Pittsfield Democrat said on Thursday his budget will help "get the fundamentals right" for Berkshire County. Those "fundamentals" this year, according to Hinds, is primarily education and transportation.
State Rep. John Barrett is making a statement with a budget amendment for regional transit.
Barrett said one penny on the sale tax ends up in the hands of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and the rest of the regional transit authorities are getting shortchanged. This year the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority is considering hiking fares and reducing services as costs have increased but state support has remained level for the third consecutive year.
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli's top budget priority isn't a surprise: Berkshire Youth Development.
The Lenox Democrat has prioritized programs such as the Railroad Street Youth Project for a number of years. And now, he's requesting more state funding to expand that into a countywide effort.
Each representative across the Commonwealth filed a number of amendments for specific projects in their district.
This year, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier is putting all of her efforts behind just one: St. Mary the Morningstar.
State Rep. Paul Mark is looking to create a Berkshire County opioid task force in the budget.
Mark has filed an amendment for $250,000 to start the task force with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, the Berkshire Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition, and a number of other organizations tackling the issue.
The BRTA is prepping for increasing fares and reducing service.
Berkshire Regional Transit Authority Administrator Robert Malnati said the state's funding for the organization is flat in the governor's budget.
The BRTA, the main public transportation unit serving the Berkshires, is facing an operational budget deficit of $378,400 for the upcoming fiscal year. Transit officials statewide say $88 million is needed to properly fund RTAs after four years of nearly level funding.
The breakfast was a chance to let local legislators — state Reps. John Barrett III and Tricia Farley-Bouvier and state Sen. Adam Hinds, represented by his aide A.J. Enchill — know the importance libraries hold as centers of communities. And to encourage those in attendance to spread the word about writing letters in support of the Board of Library Commissioners' budget requests.