Boston Globe: Mass. towns can seek aid for busing homeless students
October 29, 2011
State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump's determination Thursday that forcing municipalities to pay for the transportation and education of homeless students living in motels and shelters is an unfunded mandate has paved the way for communities to lobby the Legislature for funding.
"It certainly strengthens our position to seek funding in the Legislature," state Representative Theodore C. Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat, said yesterday. "It's a very big victory for cities and towns that have borne these costs over the last few years."
The issue has been in contention since Speliotis asked Bump's office a year ago to review the state's participation in the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which gives homeless families placed in temporary housing by the state the option to attend school in their home district or the district where they are sheltered. Under the act, if a family chooses to send children to school in their home district, the cost must be shared by that district and the district where the shelter is located.
Salem News: Auditor-State must pay ed costs for homeless
October 28, 2011
State Auditor Suzanne Bump has determined that requiring towns like Danvers to pay to transport and educate homeless children sheltered in local motels represents an unfunded mandate costing communities millions.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act allows homeless families relocated to an emergency shelter or motel in another community to send their children to school either in their new host city or town, or to continue being educated in their hometown. If the family chooses the latter, the host community and the hometown must share the cost of transporting children back and forth.
Danvers has had hundreds of homeless families living in its four "budget motels" since the start of the economic downturn at the end of 2008, and the town has been looking for state aid to pay for transporting students at the motels back to their home districts.
A year ago, state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, appealed to Bump's office, saying the transportation requirement put an undue burden on communities and was an unfunded mandate. Bump agreed.
Bump Declares Education and Transportation for Homeless Children A State Obligation
October 27, 2011
Today State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump released a local mandates review opinion which has statewide implications for funding the education of homeless children who are in state-sponsored emergency placements. She has determined that the state’s voluntary participation in a federal education program which requires communities to continually fund the transportation and education of some homeless children after they are placed in a different municipality for temporary housing is an unfunded mandate costing cities and towns millions of dollars. The request for review came from Danvers State Representative Ted Speliotis.
I do not question the wisdom or validity of the Commonwealth’s decision to enable homeless parents to choose whether to enroll their children in schools of their temporary host community or keep them in their original school,” said Auditor Bump. “Its embrace of the federal program, however, does require the affected school systems to incur new costs.”
Press Release: Bump Declares Education and Transportation for Homeless Children A State Obligation
Mandate Determination Letter: Emergency Assistance Program, Education Cost Impacts
Breakdown of Families in Homes by Municipality: Placed in Hotels as of 12/06/11
Historical Data: Historical Data
Gloucester Times: Gloucester's dam hazards
October 19, 2011
When the State Auditor's Division of Local Mandates set out to assess the condition of the state's 2,892 dams last year, it found that 75 percent of the municipally owned dams can be categorized as being either high or significant hazards.
And four of those dams are in Gloucester.
Of Gloucester's 17 dams and dykes, three of the them are deemed "highly hazardous" while a fourth the south dyke at Fernwood Lake is the city-owned barrier pegged as posing a "significant hazard."
While not disputing the state's claims on Gloucester's four unsafe dams, city Public Works Director Michael Hale says the city has had no means by which to fund the needed repairs. And Hale, in charge of upkeep on the city's dams, said that, to his knowledge, there are currently no federal bonds or loans that are designed to specifically help municipalities care for their dams and dikes.
Now, however, a group of several organizations, both environmental and engineering, has formed and seeks to bring statewide change to dam safety, backing a bill passed in July by the Senate that among other things is designed to enable municipalities to issue bonds for the removal, repair, reconstruction and improvements of unsafe dams.
Auditor Bump Finds Mixed Results at Agawam Housing Authority
October 10, 2011
State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit, which showed the Agawam Housing Authority improved financial oversight of its operations. However, the report also revealed some continuing deficiencies.
A 2007 audit criticized the Authority’s Board and Executive Director for poor decisions and lax oversight of its operations resulting in inappropriate use of Authority funds for personal expenses, high personal usage of Authority cell phones, questionable gasoline card purchases, and over $8,000 in questionable expenses relating to a personnel dispute. A review of operations between October 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010 showed the Authority replaced its Executive Director and has corrected its policies authorizing expenditures and the use of Authority assets.
A $187,259 decline in the Authority’s operating reserves was attributed in the prior audit to the questionable payments made by its former Executive Director and approved by its board over a five year period. Today’s audit notes that the Authority has since replenished its reserves, meeting state standards and allowing it to be adequately prepared for emergency situations.
Press Release: Auditor Bump Finds Mixed Results at Agawam Housing Authority
Audit Report: Agawam Housing Authority
Springfield Republican: Remaining problems at Agawam Housing Authority
October 5, 2011
The Agawam Housing Authority is improving financial oversight of its operations, but remains hurt by "excessive delays" in re-renting empty units and sanitary violations in some residential units, the state auditor said in an audit released on Tuesday.
The audit by Auditor Suzanne M. Bump is a follow-up to a 2007 audit that criticized the authority's board and a former executive director for poor decisions and lax oversight of its operations.
"I'd like to acknowledge the Agawam Housing Authority's Board of Directors for being responsive to many of the findings of our past audit," Bump stated on Tuesday. "The challenges that persist in the authority plague many housing managers statewide. I hope the authority can continue its progress."