|Barrett Applauds Budget Increase for Career Centers |
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
05:17AM / Sunday, August 04, 2019
|State Rep. John Barrett says he is glad to see money increased for workforce development.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — State Rep. John Barrett III 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.
"There are manufacturing jobs. Everybody thinks it is just engineering. That is a big push of mine and I'm not seeing it at the state level. We've got to get some of the money out of Workforce and Development, the labor department, at the state level. There is plenty of money this year," Barrett said.
He hopes to see additional funding for career centers statewide be used to continue that program. While there isn't a specific earmark for it, the centers are receiving an increase. Barrett said he doesn't want to see "bureaucratic jobs being created" but instead hands-on training.
"We are the only county in the state of Massachusetts that has to import people to fill open jobs here. We have an available workforce. We need to have a trained workforce," Barrett said.
Education also received a boost, but Adams and North Adams ended up not getting nearly as much as other districts. Barrett said the update to the Education Reform Act done in 2007 significantly hurt places like North Adams because it changed the calculations for estimating the ability to pay in the foundation formula.
"My last two years as mayor, we lost over $2.5 million in state money. I was able to absorb it because we put it away. But we lost that amount of money," Barrett said, who was mayor of North Adams until 2010.
The state is poised to take on changes to the formula and Barrett said he was of the mind to increase Chapter 70 aid for schools as it currently exists this year, change the formula, and then invest more in education.
"We have to change the funding formula," Barrett said
The Senate and conference committee ultimately decided to make what some are considering a down payment on changes to the formula. That resulted in Pittsfield seeing a $5 million increase this year. Barrett said because of the formula, North Adams and Adams did not receive a similar boost.
"What was approved in the House budget didn't add one penny to North Adams budget or the Adams [-Cheshire] budget," Barrett said, later clarifying that the two school districts did get some extra money but not the windfall others in the state received.
"My job is going to be making sure we have a funding formula that is going to meet the needs of the poor communities, not only in the rest of the commonwealth but right here."
There were some benefits to the schools. Regional transportation went up, which will help Hoosac Valley and Mount Greylock because those are regional districts, and a sparsity aid bill will help Clarksburg. The state also boosted the circuit breaker account for schools.
"That will produce more money for Adams and North Adams and their school districts," Barrett said.
On the local level, Barrett said he tried to earmark money for de-weeding on Cheshire Reservoir but was told that would be wrapped into the Department of Conservation and Recreation's budget. He also secured money to assist with the Susan B. Anthony Park in Adams and funding to help the operations of Gallery 51 in North Adams and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
He said he was glad to back the efforts of the Senate in pushing for an east-west rail study that would go through North Adams. The study doesn't come with funding but falls in part of the budget directing the Department of Transportation to undertake that. Once that is done, money to actually make it happen would have to be considered.
"It is a very practical way to approach. The railroad is there. It is only used for freight right now," Barrett said.
The Regional Transit Authorities will receive a $2 million boost, which is what was asked for. The funding for those had been level for a number of years but saw a significant boost last year.
What is different this year, however, is there is no money being dangled over the RTAs to try new things. Last year the budget held back funds that were only accessible if the individual RTAs tried ways to adapt to the needs.
"They got the message. Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, I give them credit, I was all over them like a cheap suit about starting to work with the other transportation providers, got to think outside the box. They put in night service," Barrett said.
He said a disappointment was in higher education. While it did receive a boost, he said the increase wasn't enough to help make colleges more affordable.
"Despite all of this, there are no tax increases that will be needed to fund this budget. They also put $230 million into the rainy day fund, which brings it to $3.3 billion. When that rainy day comes, and it will come, the programs that are being advanced now will be continued and not have to be cut down the road, which we've seen so many times over the years," Barrett said.