State Auditor Calls for Funding for Homeless Children
The decision was rendered by State Auditor Suzanne Bump in a letter dated October 27, 2011 to Representative Ted Speliotis.
Due to a reporting error, earlier versions of this article stated Danvers was told to pick up the tab for education and transportation for their homeless children. State Auditor Suzanne Bump has clarified earlier reporting and has said this is not the case.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump is calling for legislation to fund a currently unfunded mandate which would provide assistance to the town in paying for the transportation and/or schooling of some 80 homeless children currently residing in up to four of the budget motels located in the town as required by Local Mandate Law.
The decision was rendered by State Auditor Suzanne Bump in a letter dated
October 27, 2011 to Representative Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers). There may be some unspent monies from the State that the town could potentially receive pending a legislative request.
Under the “HomeBase” program—according to Bump’s letter-- $165 million was approved by the Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick to address the issue of homelessness and to assist families in a flexible and consistent long-term housing alternative. While the program seeks to provide stability for the families and children, it has a significant impact on the host communities, including Danvers.
Danvers currently hosts 117 homeless families residing in four motels with 80 school aged children, according to Bump. Sixty-two homeless children are attending Danvers Public Schools as of this September. The town also transports 22 children in Danvers motels back to their schools of origin in Chelsea, Everett, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn, Malden, Peabody, Revere, Salem and Somerville.
These students reflect some of the children who had originally enrolled as students of the Danvers Schools but transferred to schools of origin.
The letter notes that some communities, such as Danvers, have higher numbers of hotels and motels used by the state to house homeless families, and thus face a higher than average cost burden to transport school-aged residents to their communities of origin.
Specifically, the town of Danvers, whose population is less than half of one percent of the population of the Commonwealth, hosts eight percent of the homeless families the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) places in motels.
In school year 2009-2010 Danvers paid $145,140 to adhere to the transportation requirements of the McKinney-Vento program.
There may be some hope of assistance from the state in order to alleviate the cost to the Danvers. Under the McKinney-Vento Act—although not a Federal mandate—it could help clarify the threshold of disproportionate burden and provide some reimbursement.
"The state’s application of the Mckinney-Vento program requires both the host
community and the community of origin to share the cost of the students’ transportation. Amounting to approximately $1 million annually statewide. Auditor Bump determined this shared burden on cities and towns to be an unfunded mandate.
The Danvers Board of Selectmen recommended a letter be sent inviting Speliotis and State Senator Fred Berry (D-Peabody) to come before the Board of Selectmen at the December 20 meeting to further discuss how to obtain funding to pay for the unfunded mandate.