SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

October 22, 2012

State rep candidates spar over local aid claims

DANVERS — Selectman Dan Bennett is questioning how much credit state Rep. Ted Speliotis can take for a significant jump in state aid to Danvers this year.

“I think it’s how it’s presented that people may question,” said Bennett, a Republican who is challenging Speliotis for the second time in two years, seeking the 13th Essex District seat that Speliotis has held since 1997. It is the only state representative race on the North Shore.

Bennett cites Speliotis campaign literature that says, “I fought for and won a 26 percent increase in local aid for Danvers during the worst economic downturn of our lifetime.”

Bennett accuses Speliotis of exaggerating his role. What should Speliotis have said?

“‘Danvers received a 26 percent increase in local aid, which is a great thing for our town.’ That’s how I would have phrased it,” Bennett said.

Speliotis isn’t buying it.

“I stand by my statement,” he said. “Danvers hit the jackpot this year.”

Speliotis said that in 2006 he and other lawmakers fought for and voted to change local aid formulas to help cities and towns that were not receiving a fair share of education aid under Chapter 70. At the time, wealthier towns like Topsfield (which used to be in the 13th Essex District) were receiving 10 percent of their school budget from the state, while low-income cities like Lawrence were receiving 100 percent.

The change in the formula upped the percentage of state aid for education to Topsfield to 17 percent.

“What happened in Danvers (this year) happened in Topsfield in 2007,” Speliotis said.

In this fiscal year’s state budget, Danvers got about $1.8 million more in state aid, plus money to pay for school transportation for homeless students placed in Danvers motels.

Bennett said Danvers was really a beneficiary of education aid formulas that were instituted with education reform in 1993 and have been tweaked over time. Speliotis said that lawmakers adjust aid formulas approximately every 10 years.

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