SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 21, 2011

Homeless transportation cost: $130K

Danvers: Town could ask state to pay to send kids living in motels to school

DANVERS — The schools this year may be forced to pay $130,000 to send homeless students living in town motels to classes in their former communities, a top school official said.

That estimate is close to double what Danvers spent last year and is well above initial estimates for this school year.

The school's interim business manager, Keith Taverna, gave the transportation cost estimate at a School Committee meeting last Monday.

Transportation, it turns out, is the most tangible financial hit that the town must absorb when it comes to playing host to more than 100 families living in Danvers motels, which are being used as emergency assistance shelters due to an overflow of the regular shelter system. The number of those being sheltered in motels has spiked statewide, and Danvers plays host to about 8 percent of the total population of homeless families living in motel rooms.

A recent ruling by the state auditor may provide a way for Danvers and other cities and towns that host sizable homeless populations to be reimbursed by the state for transportation and other education costs.

State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, asked the auditor's office for the ruling, and selectmen plan to invite him and a representative of Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry's office to an upcoming meeting in mid-December to get the state to pay.

Late last month, State Auditor Suzanne Bump's Division of Local Mandates found some education costs associated with the state's emergency assistance program were unfunded mandates. The local mandate law provides that any post-1980 state law or rule that imposes additional costs on cities and towns be paid for by the state or accepted locally, given the tax constraints of Proposition 21/2.

Transportation costs for homeless students housed in motels who choose to attend their old schools are unfunded mandates the state should pay for, Bump said.

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