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!
This from the ABA – “Pass-through businesses include partnerships, Subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships. . . – owners of pass-through businesses can take a 20 percent deduction for qualified business income they receive from the entity.”
There is a link to the 570 page Conference Committee report with more explanation.
Law firms and other professional service entities won’t be entirely excluded from tax relief for pass-through entities in the final version of the tax bill that is awaiting passage.
The consensus provision on pass-through businesses is in many ways a victory for the ABA. The association had lobbied Congress to accept the Senate version of the tax bill giving a tax deduction to owners of pass-through businesses, including professional service firms.
The House version of the bill would have excluded law firms and all other professional service business from pass-through tax relief, and it would have lowered the maximum tax rate rather than provide for a deduction.
The conferees accepted the Senate approach, but did not eliminate caps that phase out the pass-through deduction for higher-income professional service providers. The ABA had asked conferees to drop the phase-out.
Pass-through businesses include partnerships, Subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships. Income for such entities pass through to the owners’ individual returns, where it is currently taxed at ordinary income tax rates.
Under the consensus bill, owners of pass-through businesses can take a 20 percent deduction for qualified business income they receive from the entity, according to the Washington Post, the conference report (PDF) and the conference committee’s joint explanatory statement (PDF, see pages 20-40). Qualified business income is nonwage income that is calculated according to a formula. The deduction in the original Senate bill was 23 percent.
The tax deduction is phased out for owners of professional services businesses whose taxable income exceeds $315,000 for married individuals filing jointly or $157,500 for individuals. The threshold in the consensus bill is lower than the thresholds of $500,000 and $250,000 that were in the original Senate bill.
Many high-income law firm partners will still benefit, however, because the final tax bill lowers the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. The bill also increases income thresholds for the higher tax brackets.
The ABA position also prevailed in regards to these provisions in the consensus bill:
• The student loan tax deduction is preserved.
• Some contingency-fee lawyers will still be able to deduct upfront litigation-related expenses. Lawyers within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are permitted to deduct such expenses.
• There is no requirement that high-income law firms or other professional service businesses use accrual accounting. The accrual method would have forced many law firms to pay taxes on accounts receivable and other “phantom” income they hadn’t received and may never receive.
The ABA Section of Taxation had asked Congress (PDF) to preserve the deduction for tax code compliance expenses. But the final tax bill prevents a deduction for costs connected with the determination, collection, or refund of any tax unless the expenses are for the production of income.
This suggestion is from Needham selectman, former Norfolk County administrator, and attorney Dan Matthews – Dan suggests accelerating the payment of the rest of your FY18 real estate taxes before the end of the calendar year, if you will not get to deduct the full amount in 2018, due to the new federal tax bill (I believe local real estate taxes will only be deductible up to $10,000/year starting in 2018).
If a combination of cheery greetings, politics, and tax accounting is too much for one email, please accept my Best Wishes for the Holidays and ignore the rest of this.
But it’s become apparent that as a result of the latest tomfoolery in Washington, almost every Massachusetts homeowner who will itemize deductions for 2017 can save measurably on US income taxes by pre-paying the second half of their FY18 city/town property tax (i.e., the payments that will be due in Feb and May of 18) NOW, before Dec. 31.
Not everyone can swing that on such short notice. If your taxes are paid from mortgage holder escrow, you would have to notify the bank (and still probably have to do the prepay yourself and adjust later). And there are only four business days left in the year. And did we say the Holidays?
But with some exceptions, the dollar amount involved equals approximately the half-year property tax bill times your marginal US tax rate, which should make the effort worthwhile for (tens of?) thousands of people in MA, most who know little if anything about this.
I’m sending this along to friends who may be affected or themselves have friends or family it applies to.
I’m not a tax expert, and everyone’s situation is different- if you have questions, you may want to check with a tax advisor. But this is the basic information as I understand it.
Some cities/towns are posting prepayment information of their websites, and there is likely to be news information about this as well, but the window is short.
If you feel guilty about taking advantage of this break you can:
– consider it part of your patriotic duty to help show how wrong and reckless this new tax law is.
– make an additional donation to the charity of your choice (still deductible!).
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.
The table below about Public Safety Building costs was shared this week, first by a Gilbane Construction employee with Mike Quinlan, chair of the Building Committee, then to Mike Sullivan, and then to the Board of Selectmen.
To me it is reassuring to see both that the cost of our Public Safety Building was relatively low, but also that our size comports with what other towns are deciding to build, which reaffirms the appropriateness of the recommendations of the Building Committee about the size of a building that was needed. Congratulations and thanks are again in order to the Building Committee for successfully steering the town through that project!
I have had many meetings in both conference rooms that are available for public use in the Public Safety Building, and can attest to both their quality and utility.
This was the accompanying email from Mike Sullivan that makes our low cost per sq. ft. even more remarkable –
FYI. This came in this morning from Mike Quinlan. Confirms what we’ve been hearing about what a good price (relatively) we got on out public safety building. Especially since our project included construction of the Dale St. School parking lot, repair of the Adams Street basketball/tennis court, and installation of solar panels. Even better, we still have over $500K left in out accounts. Mike S
Jerry McCarty, Facilities Director, presented his tome, Municipal Facilities Evaluation and Capital Plan, to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.
Jerry’s work evaluates the current conditions of the town buildings, lists deferred maintenance, and lays out routine expected maintenance over the next 20 years. This is the first time that the town has had this data compiled, and the bad news is that we have allowed about $43 m. in deferred maintenance to accumulate and we face an estimated $68 m. more of routine maintenance over the next 20 years.
We owe Jerry a huge thanks for taking on and completing this task, much of it done on his own time, so as to not interfere with his regular work. Jerry will include the pavement management plan when that is completed, and add sections for the Public Safety Building, the DPW Garage, and the Dwight-Derby House when his has the time. Then if we add the vehicle replacement schedule we should have most town capital expenses covered and we can plan how to implement the work and pay for it. It would have been better to plan this way long ago.
And these pages are the Executive Summary (NB – I left out the text of all 558 pages in the “Alt. Text” window which allows all the text to be word searched, as I think that amount of data may have been what was crashing the prior two attempts to post this, as that had to be a lot of data) –
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.