Libraries, schools, roads, bridges ... your tax dollars

Math was never my strong suit in school.

Well, it ranked right after foreign languages, which I never seemed to master. After amo, amas, amat, I'm done. I don't know if it was my fault, or Miss Riley's, for Latin, and it was hard to focus on Spanish when that teacher had a ring in her nose. In the 1950s. Before it became almost acceptable.

But, I digress. English, fine. Spelling, great. But math? Not. I'll even admit to a mathematical error while speaking on the House floor. I miscalculated the cost per mile of commuting from Exit 3 to Boston on the Masspike. At $3.60 a trip, 100 miles, it shouldn't be difficult.

Only two Representatives caught the error.

So when I tried to tally up all the state money that comes into my district each year...well, I gave up. And decided to just include some stuff.

Why now? Because this is the season of taxes and budgets. In just a week, you'll be sending your annual tax payment off to Uncle Sam, and another to Boston. If you haven't already.

Where does the money go? I can't speak for the Feds, but we begin deciding the state portion on Monday, when the House debates on the FY2001 budget begin. It's too early to say how your $21-billion will be spent in the year that begins July first.

But I've spent some time taking a look at some "old" tax dollars, to see just what Westfield gets back. Topping the list--education.

Chapter 70. This is direct financial aid distributed to school districts. Each year it amounts to about $250-million across the state.

For FY2000 (July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000), Westfield got about $24.5-million. For Westfield's 6,363 students. (The City pays the other $15-million.)

You've heard a lot about Ed Reform, and we've put the dollars into the system as promised. From 1993 to 2000, our school enrollment in Westfield increased 11 percent--while Chapter 70 money from the state increased 123 percent! Hahn Col for 4/8 - Your Tax Dollars - page 2 of 3

Spending for our Westfield schools, in the same seven years, went from $23.9-million to $39.6 million, an increase of 65.5 percent. Combining local and state tax dollars (but not including transportation which has $500,000 in state money and capital expenditures), we've gone from $4,160 spent per student to $6,199 per student.

The state is also picking up the lion's share, about 75 percent, of the payments for the new North Middle School ($23-million) and renovations of the South Middle School ($13-million).

There are also small grants and other funds that come into the Westfield School system, ranging from cultural council money for programs in the classroom to funding for bilingual programs.

Local Aid. Included in this amount are lottery distributions. $5.2-million. That's a lot of scratch tickets.

Another $366,414 in highway funds, $154,020 for the police department's career incentive program, $27,002 in veterans benefits.

Add up all the local services and school budget items, and Westfield comes in 34th of all the communities in the state when it comes to state aid. Only 33 get more money per capita than Westfield. FY2000 total receipts are $32,668,262.

That's $869.53 for every one of our 37,570 residents.

We're also driving on some state money, as pointed out here a few weeks ago. In the past year we've billed the state $761,771 for the Northwest Road Bridge project and we'll be billing them another $900,000 for work at Summit Lock Industrial Park. We've received $262,750 for the railtrail, and another $201,000 for various roads and resurfacing.

And, we've just signed a $1.6-million design contract, of which $1.4-million is state money, to get plans for the new Great River Bridge started. That's a $25 to $30-million project for Westfield in the years to come. On top of bridges on Southwick Road and Route 20, and work on Little River Road.

We've received additional money, of course. A million to improve housing. $62,738 for the Westfield Athenaeum. $10,000 to enhance our riverfront. Money to improve Barnes Municipal Airport.

Money for WICs, mental retardation and mental health services, direct aid to consumers for pharmacy and medical services and youth (DSS) services. Smoking cessation programs.

And, millions more to support state institutions like the Westfield District Court, Western Mass Hospital, the Westfield Youth Detention Center, Westfield State College, and the Air National and Army National Guard. Think about just the payrolls involved.

Just for starters. And just a partial list. No wonder I had trouble adding it up.

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