This list below from Warrant Committee chair, Tom Marie today on the Warrant Committee positions on the various warrant articles for the annual town meeting (ATM). Here is my annotated list of those warrant articles – 20180306-warrant articles–
I get newsletters from the Division of Local Services (DLS) that are often interesting. Today’s one has a link to a new state DOR dashboard where we can compare Medfield to other towns. When you try it out, be sure to check the 351 compare box to get the data point for all the cities and towns. I wish they stated a preferred data point for each of their metrics.
Interesting point learned today: Cambridge has a budget of about $600m., and they have reserves of 30% (i.e. – about $200m. banked).
DLS Unveils the Municipal Finance Trend Dashboard Sean Cronin – Senior Deputy Commissioner for Local Services
I’m pleased to announce that for the first time, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is offering a comprehensive Municipal Finance Trend Dashboard currently available on the Division of Local Services (DLS) website! Governor Baker highlighted this initiative at the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s (MMA) Annual Meeting on January 19th and I now welcome the opportunity to provide additional information here.
The dashboard is comprised of key municipal fiscal health indicators based upon data that is part of required municipal submissions to DLS, annual financial statements, state agency databases, and the US Census. It graphically displays trends in revenues and expenditures, municipal operating positions, demographic information, unfunded liabilities, property taxes, Proposition 2 ½ data, and debt. These municipal fiscal health indicators are displayed through dashboard data compiled over multiple fiscal years. Within each dashboard panel, we also identify the source for the live data point such as the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented.
The Municipal Finance Dashboard offers a wide array of metrics broken down by subject that can be viewed both at the individual community level and on a state-wide basis. They include:
Operating Position – Trends in certified free cash, stabilization fund balances, overlay reserves, general fund unassigned fund balances and outstanding receivables
Unfunded Liabilities – Trends in pension liabilities, OPEB liabilities and fund balances for those municipalities that are self-insured for health insurance
Property Taxes – Trends in average single family tax bills, new growth, levies, assessed values, excess and override capacity and Proposition 2½ ballot questions
Demographics – Trends in labor, income, population and equalized property valuations (EQVs)
Debt – Trends in outstanding debt, debt service, bond ratings, and authorized but unissued debt
Below are a few example graphs from the dashboard:
For decades, the Municipal Databank has served as an invaluable resource for local and state officials, professional associations, academic institutions, bond rating agencies, advocacy organizations, think tanks, the media, and interested taxpayers for research, analysis, and policy development. We are now leveraging that resource to provide those same stakeholders a clearer portrayal of the fiscal health of all of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns. Whether it’s a finance director meeting with the finance committee, a member of the board of selectman referencing statewide trends, or the general public looking to learn more about certain financial metrics for their community, we think the information contained in the dashboard can serve innumerable purposes. To see how it could best suit your needs, we highly encourage you to take our Municipal Finance Trend Dashboard for a test drive.
The new dashboard makes it easier to get the information that you need. No longer will you need to pull down multiple spreadsheets, combine different datasets, and create charts and graphs. For these key metrics, that is done for you. (However, if you want the data for all 351 municipalities over multiple years, you can still download that. So no fears for those who like the raw data!) This is also a great transparency tool and hopefully helps simplify the analysis that goes into determining the fiscal health of a community.
I want to thank the entire DLS team for their hard work identifying the metrics, building the dashboard, and retrieving the data. As we move forward, we will provide updates and pursue additional metrics and variables, so if you have any feedback, please let us know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy and utilize the dashboard!
• UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID WOULD INCREASE BY $37.2 MILLION (3.5%)
• BASE CHAPTER 70 AID WOULD INCREASE BY $103.6 MILLION (2.2%)
• $15 MILLION IN SCHOOL AID ADDED FOR STUDENTS FROM PUERTO RICO
• MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS LEVEL-FUNDED
Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker submitted a $40.9 billion fiscal 2019 state budget plan with the Legislature, proposing a spending blueprint that would increase overall state expenditures by 2.6 percent, as the Administration seeks to close an ongoing structural budget deficit by restraining spending across the board and placing an estimated $96 million into the state’s rainy day fund. The budget relies on $95 million in one-time revenues.
As Gov. Baker pledged to local officials on Jan. 19 at the MMA’s Annual Meeting, his budget includes a $37.2 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, and $103.6 million more for Chapter 70 school aid. The Gov.’s proposal for Chapter 70 aid includes a minimum aid increase of $20-per-student, full funding of the foundation budget requirements, and continued implementation of the “target share” equity provisions. The foundation budget calculation would continue modest progress to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendation to use a more realistic factor for the cost of employee health insurance in school systems.
Most other municipal and education aid accounts in the Governor’s budget proposal would remain at fiscal 2018 levels. The special education circuit breaker would increase by $10 million, but would remain underfunded by about $20 million. Payments-in-lieu of taxes ($26.8M), regional school transportation ($61.5M), Shannon anti-gang grants ($6M), McKinney-Vento reimbursements ($8.1M) and METCO ($20.6M) would all be level-funded at fiscal 2018 amounts.
The Governor would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5 million, a painful proposal that is approximately $85 million below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that is designed to offset a portion of the amount that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. Level-funding this account would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children.
UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID INCREASED BY $37.2 MILLION
In a major victory for cities and towns, House 2 (the Governor’s fiscal 2019 budget submission) would provide $1.1 billion for UGGA, a $37.2 million increase over current funding. This fulfills one of Gov. Baker’s major promises to increase direct municipal aid by the same rate of growth as state tax revenues.
The $37.2 million would increase UGGA funding by 3.5 percent, the same rate of growth projected for state tax revenues. Every city and town would see their UGGA funding increase by this 3.5 percent growth rate.
CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID WOULD GO UP JUST 2.2 PERCENT
The Governor’s budget submission proposes a small 2.2 percent increase in Chapter 70 education aid of $103.6 million, providing every city, town and school district with a minimum increase of $20 per student. The Governor’s budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. The Governor’s budget includes a partial reflection of one of the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s key recommendations, which is updating the foundation budget to reflect the cost of employee health insurance. But this adjustment in the foundation budget is not enough to increase aid to many districts. A high majority of cities, towns and districts would only receive an increase of $20 per student under the Governor’s budget. This below-inflation increase is too low, and would force communities to reduce school programs or further shift funds from the municipal side of the budget.
Please ask your Legislators to support a funding increase for Chapter 70 school aid that ensures that all schools receive a suitable and appropriate increase in fiscal 2019, which the MMA believes should be at least $100 per student. The MMA also strongly supports implementation of all of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum spending standards for special education and employee health insurance, and to add to the spending standard a measure of recognition for the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner (ELL) and other students who would benefit from more intensive services. The Commission recommended phasing in the changes over a four-year period, a position the MMA supports as well. Increasing minimum aid and fixing the inadequacies in the foundation formula are essential.
SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER UNDERFUNDED
The Governor’s budget would add $9.9 million to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $291.1 million. Because special education costs are expected to rise in fiscal 2019, this means that the Governor’s budget underfunds reimbursements by approximately $20 million. This is a vital account that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The MMA will again be asking lawmakers to ensure full funding in fiscal 2019.
CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED AT $80.5 MILLION
As noted above, the Governor would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5 million, far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2018 funding level is $73 million BELOW what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law, so it is clear that the shortfall will grow significantly in fiscal 2019. MMA’s estimate is that this account is at least $85 below what is necessary. This would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Solving the charter school funding problem must be a major priority during the budget debate.
REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
Gov. Baker’s budget submission would level-fund regional transportation reimbursements at the $61.5 million amount. This will be a hardship for virtually all communities in regional districts. Reimbursements for transportation of out-of-district vocational students remains significantly underfunded at $242K. Increasing these accounts is a priority for cities and towns.
McKINNEY-VENTO REIMBURSEMENTS LEVEL FUNDED
The Governor’s budget would level-fund reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students at $8.1 million. The impact of this funding level will vary from community-to-community depending on the number of homeless families that remain sheltered in local hotels and motels. The Administration has been successful in reducing the number of homeless students who are dislocated from their original district, but those communities that continue to provide transportation to many students may continue to see shortfalls.
PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT) AND SHANNON GRANTS LEVEL FUNDED, AND LIBRARY AID UP $191K
The Governor’s budget would level fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, Shannon anti-gang grants at $6 million, and fund library grant programs at $19.3 million (up $191K).
GOV. PROPOSES APPLYING HOTEL-MOTEL TAX TO AIRBNB AND OTHER SHORT-TERM RENTALS, BUT ONLY IF RENTED FOR 150 DAYS
House 2 includes an outside section (section 32) that would subject Airbnb and other short-term rentals to the local room occupancy excise tax. However, this would only apply in cases where the property is rented for 150 days or more. The MMA strongly supports extending the room occupancy excise to ALL short-term rentals. The 150-day threshold would continue to shield a large percentage of seasonal and short-term rentals from taxation, and would not close the loophole that exists now.
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY AND CALL ON THEM TO PUBLICLY SUPPORT THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSAL TO INCREASE UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID BY $37.2 MILLION – THIS INCREASE IS VITAL TO LOCAL BUDGETS IN EVERY CORNER OF MASSACHUSETTS
AND PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO COMMIT TO INCREASING CHAPTER 70 EDUCATION AID, FIXING THE FLAWS IN CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING, AND FULLY FUNDING KEY MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL PROGRAMS
The following are our $ figures in the Governor’s proposed budget that was released today. Our state aid is up about $101K, and our assessments are down about $40K. The Governor committed to an increase that matches the state’s 3.5% projected revenue increase, but that only applies to the unrestricted general governmental aid category, which has gone up 3.5%.
If all of our state monies went up 3.5%, we would be getting $272K more, instead of $101K more. As time goes by, the state seems to transfer more of the cost of providing municipal services to the towns.
Several months ago, I was invited to give a presentation about heart failure to a group of physicians who meet every month for a lunch meeting.
Don’t worry. No company sponsored the talk, and I did not receive any payment. I accepted the invitation, because it seemed like to good thing to do.
However, the audience was a bit unusual for me. Among the 25 physicians in the room, nearly all were in their 70s and 80s. All were retired, and none were actively involved in patient care. I guess that explains why they had time in the middle of the day for an hour-long presentation.
I gave my talk, but there were no questions.
I had a few moments afterwards to speak to my audience. Since the physicians were not involved in patient care, I wondered why they wanted to hear a talk about new advances in heart failure.
The response surprised me: “We no longer care for patients, but we care about what’s going on. You see, most of us are employed by insurance companies to do preauthorization for drugs and medical procedures.”
My jaw dropped: “I just gave a talk about new drugs for heart failure. Are you responsible for preauthorizing their use for individual patients?” The answer was yes.
I was really curious now. “So did I say anything today that was helpful? I talked about many new treatments. Did I say anything that you might use to inform your preauthorization responsibilities?”
Their answer hit me hard. “Oh, we’ve heard about those drugs before. We’re asked to approve their use for patients all the time. But we don’t approve most of the requests. Nearly all of them are outside of the guidelines that we are given.”
I stammered. “I just showed you evidence that these new drugs and devices make a real positive difference in people’s lives. People who get them feel better and live longer.”
The physicians agreed. “Yes, you were very convincing. But the drugs are too expensive. So we typically reject requests, at least the first time. We figure that, if doctors are really serious, then they should be willing to make the request again and again.”
I was astonished. “If the drugs will help people, how can you say no?”
Then I got the answer I did not expect. “You see, if it weren’t for us, the system would go broke. Every time we say yes, healthcare becomes more expensive, and that isn’t a good thing. So when we say no, we are keeping the system in balance. Our job is to save our system of healthcare.”
I responded quickly. “But you are not saving our healthcare system. You are simply making money for the company that you work for. And patients aren’t getting the drugs that they need.”
One physician looked at me as if I were from a different planet. “You really don’t understand, do you? If we approve expensive drugs, then the system goes broke. Then no one gets healthcare.”
Before I had a chance to respond, he continued: “Plus, if I approve too many expensive drugs, I won’t get my bonus at the end of the month. So giving out too many approvals wouldn’t be a smart thing for me to do. Would it?”
I walked out of the room slowly. Although I had been invited to share my knowledge, it turned out that — this time — I was the real student.
The physicians in the audience taught me a valuable lesson. And amazingly, none of them showed a single slide.
Packer has recently consulted for Amgen, Boehringer Ingelhim, Cardiorentis and Sanofi. He was one of the two co-principal investigators for the PARADIGM-HF trial (sacubitril/valsartan) and currently chairs the Executive Committee for the EMPEROR trial program (empagliflozin).
Thank you for acting on the Ambulance Fee Alert we sent you on November 1st!
The sweeping health care cost containment bill approved by the Senate last week does NOT include the provisions opposed by the MMA to cap ambulance fees. Your calls on this important issue made a big difference.
As you recall, an early version of the Senate’s health care bill included provisions to cap municipal ambulance fees and impose a state-driven system to oversee the local fee-setting process. That proposal would have imposed financial burdens on cities and towns, and made it difficult for communities to fund emergency response services.
Fortunately, the Senate Ways and Means Committee eliminated the fee-capping provisions from the legislation that was debated and passed by the Senate. This came after productive conversations between the MMA, legislators, Senate staff, Fire Chiefs and other EMS Coalition partners, as we explained why ambulance fee caps would hurt local budgets and undermine high-quality municipal EMS programs. The MMA’s effectiveness on this issue was possible because of the large volume of calls that Senators received from local officials, as you responded to our Nov. 1 Action Alert. Your calls were the key to our success.
The health care legislation now moves to the House, where a bill is expected to emerge for debate early next year. When you see your Senators over the upcoming holiday season, please thank them for protecting local fee-setting authority for ambulance fees, and when you see your Representatives, please explain why ambulance fee caps would be bad for cities and towns. And please thank them all for supporting municipal issues throughout the year.
Here is an updated agenda and the back up materials. These back up materials contain the Schedule A financial summary the Town of Medfield files annually with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, that gives a complete summary of the town finances.
I started this blog to share the interesting and useful information that I saw while doing my job as a Medfield selectman. I thought that my fellow Medfield residents would also find that information interesting and useful as well. This blog is my effort to assist in creating a system to push the information out from the Town House to residents. Let me know if you have any thoughts on how it can be done better.
For information on my other job as an attorney (personal injury, civil litigation, estate planning and administration, and real estate), please feel free to contact me at 617-969-1501 or Osler.Peterson@OslerPeterson.com.