Monthly Archives: May 2009

Effect of current budget proposals on Medfield

Hello all,

The following is the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s email alert to me as a Town of Medfield selectman just before Memorial Day, after the Senate budget numbers were announced. The links are http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=dorterminal&L=5&L0=Home&L1=Local+Officials&L2=Municipal+Data+and+Financial+Management&L3=Cherry+Sheets&L4=FY2010+Cherry+Sheets&sid=Ador&b=terminalcontent&f=dls_cherry_10_cs10ct_wordrec&csid=Ador and http://www.mass.gov/legis/10budget/senate/localaid.htm.

The first link will take you to the DOR/DLS Cherry sheet for Medfield, which indicates for the categories listed as “FY2009 Cherry Sheet Estimate FY2010 Governor’s Budget (House 1) FY2010 House Final Budget Proposal FY2010 SWM Budget Proposal,” respectively, that the current proposed state revenue sharing numbers for Medfield are “$8,086,076 7,743,530 7,758,532 7,211,254,” respectively.  This means that Medfield will lose about $350,000 (just under 5%) in state aid under the proposed governor’s and House budgets versus last year, but $750,000 (almost 10%) under the Senate budget.

Senator Timilty comes to the Board of Selectmen meeting tonight, so I can ask him about why the senate is looking to treat Medfield in this way.

Best,
Pete
============================
MMA Legislative Alert
5/22/09
Contact:
Tom Philbin
617-426-7272 ext. 121
Massachusetts Municipal Association

SENATE PASSES DAMAGING FISCAL 2010 BUDGET
Adopts Sales Tax Increase, but Slashes Municipal Aid by $449 Million and School Aid by $79 Million
Contact Your Legislators and Local Media to Protest the Senate’s Deep and Damaging Cuts to Local Aid and Call for Action to Protect Cities and Towns

The fiscal 2010 budget voted by your Senators:
Cuts municipal aid by $449 million below original fiscal 2009 levels ($321 million below post-9C levels, and $229 million below the House-passed budget)
Cuts $79 million from Chapter 70 education aid, providing a reduction of up to 2% for most school districts
INCLUDES A DEEPLY FLAWED MUNICIPAL HEALTH PROVISION THAT GIVES UNIONS BINDING ARBITRATION AND IS WORSE THAN NO REFORM
Allows a local option 2% meals tax and an increase of 2% in local lodging taxes, a top MMA priority
Includes repeal of the poles and wires telecom tax loophole worth $26 million for cities and towns, a top MMA priority
Adds back $35 million to municipal aid (adding 4.217% to every community’s general unrestricted aid number in the original Senate Ways and Means budget) based on a speculative plan to have Massachusetts join the nationwide Powerball Lottery game, reducing the municipal aid cut from $484 million to $449 million
Makes the Following Deep Cuts in Major Local Aid Programs:

Cuts $89 million from the special education circuit-breaker

Cuts $35 million from police career incentive (Quinn Bill) funding

Cuts $31 million from regional school transportation reimbursements

Cuts $27.5 million from community policing and anti-gang funding

Cuts $20 million from sewer rate relief funding, eliminating the account

Cuts $8 million from library grants

Cuts $3 million from the PILOT program

PLEASE KEEP UP THE PRESSURE AND MAKE YOUR LEGISLATORS LISTEN:

• Call and Write to Your Senators, Reps., and Local Media Today to Protest the Senate’s Local Aid Cut, and Explain in Detail What the Impact Will Be on Your Community, in Terms of Immediate and Painful Layoffs and Service Reductions

• Tell your Legislators and the Media that the Senate’s Municipal Health Provisions are Unacceptable – Giving Unions Binding Arbitration Over Changes in Health Plans is a Huge Mistake and is Worse than No Reform At All

• THE MMA IS ASKING EVERY COMMUNITY TO HOLD A SPECIAL PUBLIC BUDGET FORUM WITHIN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS and Invite All Local Officials, Citiz ens, the Media, and Your Legislators – Publicly Decry the Local Aid Cuts and Demand that the Legislature’s Final Budget Restore Local Aid to Acceptable Levels

• Tell Your Legislators to Support the Local Option Taxes as Key Revenues for Cities and Towns

After several days of debate, Senators voted to approve their version of the fiscal 2010 state budget plan late last night (Thursday, May 21st). The budget includes extraordinarily deep and harmful local aid cuts that would cause immediate and lasting damage to cities and towns in every corner of Massachusetts.

Even after adopting the sales tax increase of 1.25 percent (which the MMA and local officials supported), the Senate budget is based on $1.5 billion less in state tax revenues than the House or Governor’s budgets due to the crumbling economy. After adopting the sales tax increase, Senators did NOT use the funds to restore the municipal or school aid accounts. In contrast, the House restored $205 million to municipal aid after adopting the sales tax hike.

The Senate budget would force communities to lay off thousands of teachers, police officers, firefighters, public works employees, librarians and other key staff. Essential services would be severely weakened, and reliance on the regressive property tax would skyrocket. This budget would cause greater harm to the Massachusetts economy, and make the recession last longer than necessary.

The Senate’s Updated Local Aid Numbers Should Be Available Online By Early Next Week. To View the DLS Web Site, click here and to View the Senate Budget Website, click here.

In the meantime, multiply the Senate Ways and Means General Unrestricted Aid number for your community by 1.04217 (a 4.217 percent increase) to get your updated municipal aid number. Chapter 70 remains unchanged.

The budget now goes to a House-Senate Conference Committee to iron out the differences and develop the final budget that will be sent to the Governor by the last week of June, about four weeks from now. It is imperative that Legislators hear from local officials and local citizens, and commit to rejecting any final budget that does not restore local aid. In addition, your Reps. and Senators must oppose the unworkable and damaging municipal health provisions in the Senate budget and support plan design power for local officials as real reform. Further, lawmakers must support the essential local option meals and lodging taxes and closing the telecom tax loophole.

Summary of Senate Floor Action on Key Local Aid Items:
Municipal Aid: The Senate’s final budget would slash municipal aid by $449 million below original (pre-9C) fiscal 2009 levels, a 34% reduction. One of the last budget amendments adopted on Thursday night was a provision to add back $35 million to municipal aid (adding 4.21% to every community’s general unrestricted aid number in the original Senate Ways and Means budget) based on a speculative plan to have Massachusetts join the nationwide Powerball Lottery game, reducing the municipal aid cut from $484 million to $449 million. This still represents the largest municipal aid cut in history, and would bring municipal aid down to levels last seen in the 1980s.

Damaging Municipal Health Provisions: In a major disappointment, in spite of a flood of calls from local officials, Senators voted to attach the deeply flawed municipal health insurance language issued by the Municipal Relief Commission that would mandate collective bargaining on health insurance changes, institute an unworkable dollar benchmark, institute binding arbitration to “resolve” disputes which would actually allow unaccountable arbitrators to impose costs on taxpayers, and penalize communities with a local aid takeaway. The Senate fails to understand that this language is much worse than no reform at all, and seems to want a political solution and “talking points” to claim they are addressing the health insurance issue, while placating municipal unions who oppose any change (unions have been fighting for binding arbitration ever since it was repealed by the voters as part of Proposition 2½ because i t is a bad deal for taxpayers). This provision is a big step backward for cities and towns, and is not reform at all. The final budget must include the MMA’s proposal to simply give cities and towns plan design authority – that is the real reform. The Senate’s plan is worse than no action at all.

Local Option Taxes: The Senate budget would allow a local option meals tax of 2 percent (with all of the funds staying locally in each community that votes to adopt the meals tax), and to increase the allowable local hotel/motel tax by 2 percent. Local option taxes are a top MMA priority. The full annualized revenues from the meals tax would be $250 million, but is estimated to be approximately $170 million or so in fiscal 2010 because of the delay in implementation. The lodging tax would raise an estimated $20 million per percent on an annualized basis. Local option taxes cannot replace the need for local aid funding. For most communities these local option revenues will not come close to making up for the local aid cut — and the Senate plan will create serious disparities between municipalities based on the number of restaurants and hotels. That is why local aid is also vital, as it ensures that all communities would have revenues to fund essential services and reduce property tax reliance.

Closing the Telecom Loophole on Poles and Wires: The Senate budget would also codify the ATB decision that allows cities and towns to collect property taxes on poles and wires owned by telecommunications companies — this is a priority that would free up $26 million for cities and towns in fiscal 2010 (in fiscal 2009 all of these funds have been collected, but most of the money remains in local overlay accounts and is unavailable because the telephone companies are fighting the ruling). The Senate would not eliminate the loophole on equipment.

Special Education Circuit Breaker: Senators added $36 million back to this vital reimbursement program, but it would still be seriously underfunded with an $89 million cut below this year, funding the account at about 60%.

Police Career Incentive Program: Instead of eliminating the $50 million account completely, Senators stated on the Senate Floor that they were adding as much as $15 million back to the program (Senate staff is still sorting through the paperwork to locate the specific amendment that inserted the funds). The House funding level is $25 million. Many communities are locked into contracts that would force them to make up the difference, translating into an unfunded mandate if the state underfunds its obligation to provide a 50% match.

Community Policing: The Senate added $6.5 million for the Shannon grant anti-gang program, but overall the budget would cut $27.5 million from community policing programs.

Chapter 70 Education Aid: Senators did not make any changes to the Senate Ways and Means proposal to cut Chapter 70 by $79 million, translating into a 2% reduction in Chapter 70 funds for all districts. Similar to the Governor and the House, the Senate plan would rely on federal stimulus (ARRA) funds to add to Chapter 70 to get approximately 170 districts up to Foundation level. However, the overall Foundation mark for each district is slightly lower in the Senate budget, due to a lower inflation calculation used to save the state money, so the overall combination of Chapter 70 and ARRA funds for these 170 districts is approximately 1% smaller than the House and Governor’s plans. Further, the Senate does not recommend the House’s suggested $50 per student minimum aid in their ARRA allocations.

Key Accounts: Senators did not make any changes to the Senate Ways and Means proposal to cut $31 million from regional school transportation reimbursements and $3 million from PILOT funds.

TAKE ACTION TODAY
It is urgent that you contact your Legislators and local media and tell them that these cuts are unacceptable to the residents of your community. Senators and Representatives must take every possible step to reverse these cuts and restore local aid in the final version of the budget that will be developed by the House-Senate Budget Conference Committee over the next four weeks.

The MMA is asking every community to hold a special public budget forum within the next two weeks to present the damage that the Senate’s local aid cuts would cause – some communities have already done this! Legislators and the public must understand the impact of these local aid reductions.

The reality is that, in spite of the local option taxes and the telecom tax reform, the Senate budget would deepen the fiscal crisis for cities and towns, force sweeping and damaging cuts to public safety, education, road and bridge maintenance, libraries and other vital services, increase reliance on property taxes, and erode the very services that support our economy.

This is a shared crisis, and cities and towns need basic levels of local aid and powerful tools to protect their communities. This budget does not contain the local aid or municipal management tools that are required. Local leaders call upon the Legislature to take immediate action on the revenues and reforms we need, so that cities and towns can deliver essential services to the people of the Commonwealth. Otherwise Massachusetts will experience a longer and deeper recession, and our economic recovery will be postponed.

• Share this information with municipal workers in your community, and urge them to contact their Legislators – their jobs are at stake
• Check the MMA website http://www.mma.org for frequent updates from the MMA
NOW is the time for the Legislature to protect cities and towns!

Senate budget said to badly hurt towns -”Slashes Municipal Aid by $449 Million and School Aid by $79 Million” per MMA – http://www.mma.org/

Medfield selectmen (BoS) meet 5/26 & agenda is out – Sen. Timilty to attend, BoS to review town meeting warrant articles.

Follow Medfield selectman matters via Osler Peterson at http://ping.fm/8xo2K http://ping.fm/WEHdN and on Facebook

Medfield02052 is open for business!

Hello fellow Medfield residents,

I have followed our town government from the outside, and I have experienced it up close for the past nine years as one of your selectmen. I am convinced that the town can do more to provide you with information on municipal issues, and that it only makes sense to get that information to you from the Town House, which is full of information and knowledgeable public servants.

I believe Medfield citizens want to be kept up to date since, at the end of the day, we are all asked to vote on significant and substantial matters at town meeting. It is up to town officials to ensure that all residents receive facts straightforwardly, the better for them to make informed decisions.

The torturous process involving the Medfield State Hospital land is a case in point. The issue has been the subject of many lengthy meetings that have produced a great deal of solid information about possibilities and roadblocks, but I suggest that only a handful of residents can track what has been going on and come to grips with where we are at. That is no one’s fault; the tale of the maneuvering between the town and various state agencies, would tax the likes of Sherlock Holmes.

I have come to believe that with the changing media landscape, towns like Medfield can no longer assume that the local newspaper or other outlets will fully prep townspeople for decisions that will affect the whole town. It is up to our elected and appointed officials to get out the information in their own words.

Medfield should boast a website that is robust and accessible with pertinent and timely content, the place where civic information is available to the greatest number at the least cost. The site should contain all committee meeting dates, agendas, and minutes. It should contain all reports produced by town committees, and all background information. The fact is that these items already exist; we just need to make them available to you.

The selectmen have recently taken our own first step in this direction. For the past year I have seen to it that our meetings are consistently scheduled on the first and third Tuesdays of the month and that our meeting agendas close on Friday afternoons so that they can be posted on the town website well ahead of our Tuesday meetings. My goal is to have copies of all the background materials the selectmen see scanned and added to the website, so that you can see what we see as we are meeting. Our minutes will be posted on the website after the meetings. The recordings of any televised meeting should be uploaded to the website for you to view if and when you have time to see it, and this is now happening for the selectmen meetings, thanks to MedfieldTV, which recently began digitally recordings our meeting and posting them on-line.

As we start to get more information to you, I hope that you will respond with your opinions and analyses. I hope to have the town start to make use of internet surveys, such as those available at SurveyMonkey.com, to get a good handle on what Medfield residents think and want, so that we don’t have to wait until town meeting to hear their voices.

Thank you,
Pete
Selectman Osler L. Peterson

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