Category Archives: Massachusetts Municipal Association

MMA Best Practices

MMA

The Massachusetts Municipal Association published in January a series of “best practices” for towns in Massachusetts, and I thought I would share them as I had time. This process is where we can share the collective knowledge of all the other towns, as we figure out how best to do things.

The first “best practice” is about how much we should have in reserves, and the MMA recommends more than 5% or two months of  your operating funds.  Our budget is about $60m./year, so I make that amount to be about $10m.  I think that is about twice what we have.


MMA Fiscal Policy Committee
Best Practice Recommendation: Municipal Reserves

BEST PRACTICE: Adopt, as a set policy or practice, adequate funding of municipal reserve accounts to mitigate budget risks from extraordinary and unforeseen events and maintain fiscal stability over time. This could include the adoption of reserve funding targets of 5 percent or more, based on the size of the municipal budget and consideration of spending and revenues risks. This could also include the identification of specific year-end fund balances or revenues from other sources
to contribute to reserve accounts. A good policy or practice could also include rules for the use or draw down of reserves and for replenishment of depleted accounts.

It is widely recognized that those state and local governments that have established and funded reserve and stabilization accounts at sufficient levels have been well-served, because reserves allow states and localities to sustain services in times of economic and fiscal distress and limit the risk from extraordinary and unforeseen occurrences. Sound policies and practices, along with adequate levels of reserves, can also have a positive impact on credit ratings and can reduce  the cost of borrowing and capital project spending.

The Division of Local Services advises that a good reserve policy will establish target balances for the local stabilization fund and other reserves and “develop a schedule of annual appropriations … designed to reach and sustain target balances gradually over time.”

A Best Practice adopted by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Executive Board recommends that “governments establish a formal policy on the level of unrestricted fund balance that should be maintained in the general fund.” The GFOA suggests that the balance be maintained at no less than two months of general operating fund revenues or expenditures, although the amount of the balance and the measurement depend on the specific circumstances of the municipality. The GFOA also recommends that the purpose of various parts of the fund balance be specified, including, for example, “a portion for working capital, one for budgetary stabilization, and one for responding to extreme events.”

References from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA):
www.gfoa.org/appropriate-level-unrestricted-fund-balance-general-fund
www.gfoa.org/adopting-financial-policies-0

Municipal Modernization Bill

This today from the MMA on the Municipal Modernization Bill –

 

MMA-2

February 16, 2016

GOV’S MUNICIPAL MODERNIZATION BILL CONTAINS NECESSARY REFORMS AND IMPORTANT UPDATES FOR CITIES AND TOWNS

Please Call Your Legislators Today and Ask Them to Pass the Municipal Modernization Act Now

Legislative hearings have been completed on the sweeping Municipal Modernization Bill that Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito filed in December. Five different committees heard testimony from scores of local officials and stakeholders during the past five weeks, and the next step will be for the legislation to be reassembled into one strong package for votes in the House and Senate.

Because several of the important reform measures in the Municipal Modernization Act are opposed by special interest groups, your legislators will need to hear from you.

The Governor’s Municipal Modernization Act (H. 3905) features dozens of welcome reforms related to procurement, municipal finance, human resources, economic development and the general administration of local government. The bill was based on a wide range of input from local leaders, and is built around four major actions: 1) updating and repealing obsolete state laws; 2) promoting independence at the local level; 3) streamlining state oversight; and 4) providing municipalities with greater flexibility and day-to-day decision-making powers.

KEY REFORMS IN THE BILL INCLUDE:

  • Giving cities and towns control over the number of liquor licenses that can be issued to restaurants and bars in the community;
    • Enacting unemployment insurance reforms to prevent school crossing guards, school bus drivers, and others from collecting unemployment payments during school vacations;
    • Allowing cities and towns to decide whether to exempt positions from Civil Service;
    Increasing procurement thresholds to eliminate unnecessary red tape and delays for simple purchases;
    Certifying the full and fair value of property values every 5 years, instead of every 3 years;
    • Replacing many of the mandatory paid classified ads for zoning and other notices with electronic posting as used in the Open Meeting Law; and
    • Giving municipalities the ability to levy fines to enforce the requirement that utilities remove double poles within 90 days.

The bill includes over 200 provisions that would update and reform a wide swath of state laws governing everything from basic municipal finance and administration to allowing cities and towns a first option to purchase tax-exempt property, and was written based on suggestions made by local officials on ways to make running local government more efficient and less costly, and to return “home rule” authority to cities and towns where it makes sense. The bill includes a number of proposals from the MMA’s legislative package.

Information about the municipal modernization bill can be found on the MMA website by clicking here.

ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO PASS ONE STRONG MUNICIPAL MODERNIZATION BILL:

Earlier this year, legislators divided the Municipal Modernization Act into five smaller bills, and sent them to different committees for public hearings.

With public hearings concluded, it is now time to bring the parts back together into a single consolidated bill and make plans for debate and passage in the House and Senate.

With the end of formal legislative sessions only 5½ months away, there is no time to waste. Please call your legislators today and ask them to reassemble the Municipal Modernization Act into one strong bill, and ask them for a commitment to pass the bill early this spring.

When you speak with your legislators, please ask them to talk to the leaders in their branches (the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and the Chairs of the House and Senate Ways & Means Committee) and seek a commitment to take up and enact a consolidated bill before the session ends.

The Municipal Modernization Act Will Help Every City and Town

Please Ask Your Legislators to Make the Bill a Top Priority this Session

MMA meeting details

MMA-2

Here is the complete schedule for the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting that as your selectman I will attend on your behalf on January 22 & 23, to learn how to make Medfield’s town government better.

Let me know if there is anything you especially think I should be sure to get to – I highlighted the concurrent sessions that strike me as especially interesting.


MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show

All events are held at the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

Friday, January 22, 2016


8 a.m.-5 p.m Conference Registration Hynes, Hall C foyer, 2nd floor
9:30-11 a.m. Opening Session
Keynote Speaker: Guy Raz
Hynes, Ballroom B, 3rd floor
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Municipal Trade Show Hynes, Hall C & Auditorium
Noon-1:30 p.m. WEMO Luncheon (preregistration required)
Speaker: Attorney General Maura Healey
Hynes, Ballroom C, 3rd floor
2-3:30 p.m. CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS – Friday session
• Developments and Initiatives in Municipal Finance
• Economic Development Opportunities for Small Towns
• Eight Minutes With a Highly Effective Manager
• Employer Rights in a New Era of Workplace Monitoring
• Labor Law Update
• Making the Case for Regional Emergency Dispatch
• Municipal Land Use and Zoning Update
• Municipal Liability: What Every Manager Should Know
• New Technology in Pavement Management and Snow and Ice Operations
• Shaping Age-Friendly Communities for All Generations to Come
Hynes, 2nd floor meeting rooms
3:45-5:15 p.m. EMERGING ISSUES FORUMS
• From Airbnb to Zipcar: The Impact of the Sharing Economy on Communities
• Future Shock: What’s in Store for Our Electricity Needs?
• Successfully Riding the Data Wave
Hynes, 3rd floor meeting rooms
6-7 p.m. Opening Reception Sheraton, Constitution Ballroom foyer, 2nd floor
7-9 p.m. Banquet Dinner, MMA President’s Address
Special guest speaker: Don Orsillo
(Preregistration required)
Sheraton, Grand Ballroom, 2nd floor
Saturday, January 23, 2016


8 a.m.-3:30 p.m Conference Registration Hynes, Hall C foyer, 2nd floor
7:30-8:30 a.m. Member Associations Breakfast Hynes, Ballroom B, 3rd floor
BUSINESS MEETINGS FOR MEMBER ASSOCIATIONS
8:30-10 a.m. • Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association Hynes, room 306
8:30-10 a.m. • Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association Hynes, Ballroom C, 3rd floor
8:30-10 a.m. • Massachusetts Mayors’ Association Hynes, room 300
8:30-10 a.m. • Massachusetts Municipal Management Association Hynes, room 304
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Municipal Trade Show Hynes, Hall C & Auditorium
10:15-11:50 a.m. MMA Annual Business Meeting
(incl. President’s Address)
Hynes, Ballroom A, 3rd floor
11:50 a.m.-noon MMA Board of Directors Meeting: Election of Officers Hynes, Ballroom A, 3rd floor
noon-1:30 p.m. MIIA Luncheon and Business Meeting (by reservation only) Hynes, Ballroom B, 3rd floor
2-3:30 p.m. CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS – Saturday session
• Capital Planning: Buying the Big Stuff
• Communities at Work: Safety Regulations for Municipal Workers
• Community Impacts of Cable, Broadband and Over-the-Top Content
• Complete Your Streets: Preparing for Policy and Action
• Critical Issues in Modern Municipal Policing
• Getting Ready for a New Public Records Law
• Media Relations Concepts for Municipal Officials
• Municipal and Open Meeting Law Update
• Municipal Leadership in the Opioid Crisis
• Understanding the Cadillac Tax
Hynes, 2nd floor meeting rooms
3:45-5 p.m. Closing Session Speaker:
John F. Harris
Hynes, Ballroom A, 3rd floor
6-7:15 p.m. Presentation of Innovation, Municipal Website and Town Report Awards; President’s Reception Sheraton, Constitution Ballroom, 2nd floor
7:15-9:15 p.m. Annual Banquet (preregistration required)
Entertainment: Paula Poundstone
Sheraton, Grand Ballroom, 2nd floor

MMA annual meeting in 2 weeks

MMA

Each January I find it useful to attend the MMA’s annual meeting to share ideas with other municipal officials.  This year it takes place in two weeks.  I always skip the dinners and staying at the hotel to save the town money.


January 7, 2016

MMA Annual Meeting News
January 22 & 23, 2016
Hynes Convention Center & Sheraton Boston Hotel

Gov. Baker to speak at Opening Session of MMA’s Annual Meeting on Fri., Jan. 22

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren & Ed Markey will address members at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting on Sat., Jan. 23

Click Here to Register Today

Five days before he files his fiscal 2017 state budget, Governor Charlie Baker will appear before nearly 1,000 local officials at the opening session of the MMA’s Annual Meeting. Gov. Baker will deliver his remarks at the beginning of the two-day conference, which starts at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

The Governor is expected to outline his budget proposals for local aid, transportation funding, and other key priorities.  REGISTER TODAY to secure a seat!

Other Major Events and Highlights During the Annual Meeting:
• Keynote address by award-winning NPR journalist Guy Raz
• Up-to-the-minute analysis by Politico’s co-founder and editor-in-chief John Harris
• Women Elected Municipal Officials luncheon with Attorney General Maura Healey
• 20 information-packed workshops on major issues of the day for local officials
• 3 “Emerging Issues” forums on major challenges facing state and local government

We look forward to seeing you at the MMA’s 37th Annual Meeting and Trade Show!

Selectman education

This past month I attended two almost day long programs designed to educate municipal officials.  The state and the MMA both seek to assist local officials to learn how to do a better job.

MMA

  • Massachusetts Selectman Association (part of the Massachusetts Municipal Association). There I got an update on legislation issues from the MMA’s executive director, heard from the Lt. Governor about their Community Compact initiative (Medfield will join), and attended workshops on budgeting and communicating.

DLS

  • Massachusetts DOR’s Division of Local Services annual legal update, which DLS describes below –  I opted for the OPEB workshop.

Local Officials Gather to Hear “What’s New in Municipal Law”
Municipal Finance Law Bureau

Over 400 local officials attended the 30th annual “What’s New in Municipal Law” seminars held on October 1, 2015 at The Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke and October 8th, 2015 at The Lantana in Randolph.

In the morning general sessions, they heard Municipal Finance Law Bureau attorneys Kathleen Colleary, Bureau Chief, Gary Blau, James Crowley, John Gannon, Donald Gorton and Patricia Hunt review new legislation and recent court and Appellate Tax Board cases. In the afternoon session, the attorneys led three workshops on (1) assessing condominiums and time-shares, and collecting personal property taxes, (2) adopting and amending municipal operating and capital budgets; and (3) negotiating and funding retiree post-employment benefits.

If you were not able to attend one of this year’s seminars, the morning presentation materials and afternoon workshop booklets are available on our website.

We look forward to seeing you at the 31st annual “What’s New in Municipal Law” seminar next fall. The dates to save are Thursday, September 29th, 2016 at The Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House in Holyoke and Thursday, October 6th, 2016 at The Lantana in Randolph.

MMA’s fall Selectmen conference

MMA

Tomorrow is the Mass. Municipal Association’s fall selectmen conference, a chance for me to learn the lessons of how other towns are solving municipal problems.  I always bring back new insights on how we can do things differently or better.  Below is the agenda.  My current thinking is to attend the budgeting and public meeting sessions.


Selectmen’s Association Fall Conference

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Click here to register for this event.

Date & Time: Saturday, October 03, 2015, 08:30am – 02:00pm
Location : Lake Pearl Luciano’s, 299 Creek St., Wrentham

Agenda

8 a.m.
Registration, Networking and Breakfast

8:30 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions
• Ellen Allen, Norwell Selectman and President of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association
• David Dunford, Orleans Selectman and President of the Massachusetts Municipal Association

8:45 a.m.
MMA Legislative Update
• Geoff Beckwith, Executive Director, Massachusetts Municipal Association

9:15 a.m.
Keynote Speaker
Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts

10:15 a.m.
Break

10:30 a.m.
Breakout Session A: Budgeting Basics
This session will outline budgeting best practices including stabilization funds, debt rating agencies, and budget management in times of crisis.
• Colleen Corona, former Easton Selectman
Moderator: Joshua Ostroff, Selectman, Natick

Breakout Session B: Collective Bargaining
This session will outline strategies for successful collective bargaining, including developing a negotiation strategy, factual preparation, and anticipating tactics that may be employed.
• Katherine Hesse, Partner, Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP
Moderator: Paul DeRensis, Selectman, Sherborn

11:40 a.m.
Break

11:45 a.m.
Breakout Session C: Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law
This session will explain how to comply with these critically important and evolving open meeting and public records laws using real examples and highlighting common mistakes.
• Robert Galvin, Partner, Galvin & Galvin
Moderator: Ellen Allen, Selectman, Norwell

Breakout Session D: Hold the Tomatoes: Facilitating Public Meetings
This workshop will be a hands-on, experiential opportunity to practice preparing for and designing constructive public meetings. Participants will be given guidelines to address ways to foster engaged citizenship, rather than inviting outrage and rants from “customers.”
• Dave Joseph, Senior Vice President for Program, Public Conversations Project
Moderator: David Dunford, Selectman, Orleans

1 p.m.
Networking and Lunch Buffet

2 p.m.
Adjournment

MMA on Senate version of state budget

This alert this morning from the Massachusetts Municipal Association on the Senate deliberations tomorrow on the state budget, highlighting issues important to towns. –

Monday, May 18, 2015

SENATE DEBATE ON FY 2016 STATE BUDGET BEGINS TUESDAY – CALL YOUR SENATORS

Lawmakers Will Decide the Fate of 942 Amendments

Please Call Your Senators Today on the Budget Amendments that Impact Key Municipal and School Priorities

The Massachusetts Senate will begin debating the $38 billion fiscal 2016 state budget on Tuesday, May 19th. The deliberations are expected to take several days, as Senators have filed 942 amendments to make changes to S. 3, the Senate Ways & Means Committee’s budget recommendation that was released last week.

Many of these amendments would directly impact cities and towns, including a number of welcome amendments that would increase funding for municipal and school aid accounts. This Legislative Alert describes the most important amendments that will be debated.

Please Call Your Senators Today

Please call your Senators as soon as possible today to secure their support for those amendments that would help your community.

Lawmakers must hear from you on these issues. Because of the great number of amendments, the summaries here are very brief. Please contact MMA Legislative Director John Robertson at jrobertson@mma.org or 617-426-7272 x122 at any time if you have questions or need more details.

When you call your Senators, please make sure to thank them for the proposals in the Senate budget to increase Unrestricted General Government Aid by $34 million (matching the budgets from the Governor and House), and for the $18.2 million increase to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker.

Please Click Here to Download a Copy of the MMA’s Budget Letter to the Senate

Please Click Here to Visit the Senate Budget Website to See the Amendments: The Senate budget committee recommendation (S. 3) and all proposed amendments are posted on the Legislature’s website at: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2016/Senate/ChamberActions

KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON SCHOOL AND EDUCATION FUNDING

Adequate Chapter 70 Minimum Aid for Municipal and Regional Schools
The MMA is calling for a sufficient funding increase for Chapter 70 school aid to ensure that all municipal and regional school districts are able to reach the “foundation” level of spending, implement the equity provisions adopted in 2006, and provide an adequate amount of minimum aid that ensures that all schools receive an increase in fiscal 2016.

The Governor proposed a fiscal 2016 Chapter 70 increase that sets minimum aid at only $20 per student for 245 cities, towns and school districts, an insufficient amount to maintain current school staffing and services. The Senate budget would increase minimum aid to $25 per student, but in reality this still leaves too many schools unable to maintain quality school programs. Recognizing that the Foundation Budget Review Commission will not file its report until mid-2015, far past the deadline for inclusion in the fiscal 2016 state budget, the MMA is urging the House to adopt a higher minimum aid amount to prevent further erosion in school financing at the local level.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 94 filed by Sen. Eldridge and Amendment 100 filed by Sen. Hedlund to increase the “minimum aid” amount to $50 per student. This amendment would benefit 245 cities, towns and school districts, and give these communities a better chance of maintaining the quality of their existing education programming.

Reimbursements for Charter School Losses
The diversion of Chapter 70 school aid away from public schools to pay tuition to charter schools has imposed a major and growing financial burden on cities and towns, a problem made more acute as the state grants more charters and existing charter schools expand. Local officials strongly support full funding of the Commonwealth’s commitment under section 89 of Chapter 71 of the General Laws to reimburse school districts for the loss of a portion of their Chapter 70 aid that is redirected to fund charter schools.

In fiscal 2015, it is expected that cities and towns will be forced to divert $444 million to fund charter schools, 10 percent of all Chapter 70 dollars. This illustrates the importance of this issue to local governments, and why it is critical for the state to meet its commitment to this program. The original $80 million appropriation in the fiscal 2015 general appropriations act was $30.5 million below the full funding amount required in the statutory formula, which was signed into law only a few years ago. The problem has deepened with two rounds of 9C cuts to this account ($3.1 million), increasing the fiscal 2015 shortfall to at least $33.6 million.

The funding shortfall means that cities and towns are receiving only a fraction of the reimbursements due according to state law. This is impacting a large number of communities, including some the state’s poorest and most financially distressed cities and towns. Thus, the underfunding of the charter school reimbursement formula is harming the most vulnerable and challenged school districts and communities.

The House and Governor’s fiscal 2016 budget would level fund charter school reimbursements at $76.9 million, even though local payments to charter schools are expected to increase by $56.5 million. Full funding of the statutory formula would require $133.5 million. Without these funds, cities and towns will face another major shortfall next year, and result in cutbacks for the vast majority of students who remain in the traditional public school setting. The SW&M budget would provide $80 million, which is still far below the necessary funding.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 616 filed by Sen. Chang-Diaz, and Amendment 608 filed by Sens. Hedlund and Moore. These critical amendments would fully fund charter school reimbursements due to cities, towns and regional school districts by providing the full $133.5 million necessary to meet the state’s obligation.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Student Transportation Costs
In fiscal 2013, the state budget provided $11.3 million to fully fund the state-mandated costs that resulted from the Commonwealth’s adoption of the federal McKinney-Vento Act. The State Auditor ruled that the McKinney-Vento program was an unfunded mandate on cities and towns, and the Legislature provided full funding soon after that ruling. Under the program, communities are providing very costly transportation services to bus homeless students to schools outside of the local school district. However, the fiscal 2014 state budget reduced McKinney-Vento reimbursements to $7.4 million, underfunding this state mandate. Full funding for this year is estimated at $19.8 million, but the Commonwealth level-funded the program at $7.35 million, creating a shortfall of $12.5 million in the current fiscal year.

The House and Governor are proposing a $1 million increase for fiscal 2016 to bring funding for McKinney-Vento reimbursements up to $8.4 million, yet the SW&M budget would level-fund the program at $7.4 million. Full funding for this state mandate would require $20.8 million, according to the most recent DESE projection.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 586 filed by Sens. Eldridge and Lesser, Amendment 569 filed by Sens. Lovely and Barrett, and Amendment 611 filed by Sens. Hedlund and Moore that would fund reimbursements due to municipalities and school districts for the cost of transporting homeless students from temporary shelters to school. In addition, please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 33 filed by Senator Lovely that would protect cities and towns that host homeless families from reduced room occupancy excise revenues as a result of the state’s emergency assistance (EA) program.

Regional School District Student Transportation Reimbursements
Funding for transportation reimbursements to regional school districts is vital to all regional districts and their member cities and towns, particularly in sparsely populated parts of the state. The Legislature appropriated $70.3 million for fiscal 2015, but, unfortunately, Governor Patrick used his 9C powers to cut the amount in November by 27 percent, an unexpected $18.7 million loss, returning the program to fiscal 2014 levels just months after coming closer to full funding. Decades ago, the state promised 100 percent reimbursement as an incentive for towns and cities to regionalize, and the consistent underfunding of this account has presented serious budget challenges for these districts, taking valuable dollars from the classroom. The Governor’s budget proposal would level-fund regional school transportation reimbursements at $51.5 million, dropping the reimbursement percentage down to 64 percent. The Senate Ways and Means Committee would restore $5 million to this key program in fiscal 2016, and bring funding up to $56.5 million, a positive and helpful increase, yet still below the funding needed.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 545 filed by Senator Gobi and others, Amendment 522 filed by Senator Humason and Amendment 612 filed by Senators Hedlund and Moore that would build on the progress in S. 3, and bring transportation reimbursements to regional school districts closer to the original fiscal 2015 appropriation.

Out-of-District Vocational Education Student Transportation
The fiscal 2015 state budget included $2.25 million item to reimburse communities for a portion of the $3.8 million cost of transporting students to out-of-district placements in vocational schools, as mandated by state law. This account recognizes the significant expense of providing transportation services for out-of-district placements, as these students must travel long distances to participate in vocational programs that are not offered locally. Governor Patrick slashed all funding with his November 9C cuts, a painful mid-year loss. The SW&M budget does not include any funding.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 574 filed by Sen. Gobi to fully fund the $3.9 million cost of transporting students to out-of-district placements in vocational schools.

Kindergarten Expansion Grants
177 cities, towns and regional school districts in every corner of the Commonwealth use this important grant program to support full-day access to local kindergarten programs – including communities in virtually every Senate district. Funding for the program in the fiscal 2015 general appropriations act was $23.9 million before being reduced through two rounds of 9C cuts to $18.6 million. The Governor’s budget recommendation would eliminate all funding in fiscal 2016, an extremely disruptive step that would force participating communities to immediately decide whether to end or scale back their current kindergarten programs or cut other school and classroom services. Real progress was made in the House budget, with Representatives voting to restore the program to $18.6 million. However, the SW&M budget would reduce the program down to $1 million. We strongly support restoring Kindergarten Development Grants to at least the fiscal 2015 post-9C level of $18.6 million, and are asking Senators to also consider restoring the program to the original $23.9 million level.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 549 filed by Senator Joyce and Amendment 613 filed by Senator Hedlund and others to level fund this account at the fiscal 2015 appropriation.

Circuit Breaker for English Language Learners
One of the many lessons learned from the six public hearings held by the Foundation Budget Review Commission last year and into this Spring is that cities and towns struggling to meet the educational needs of an increasing number of students with special needs separate from special education programs. This includes low-income and English language learner (ELL) students.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 550 filed by Senator Fattman that would establish a “circuit breaker” program for English language learners, laying the foundation for future financial assistance from the Commonwealth.


KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON MUNICIPAL AID PROGRAMS AND MUNICIPAL MANAGEMENT POLICY

Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT)
The Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) program is a particularly important program for the cities and towns that host and provide municipal services to state facilities that are exempt from the local property tax. This account is underfunded at $26.77 million this year, and is still below fiscal 2008 funding. Many of our state’s smallest communities rely heavily on PILOT payments, and shortfalls in this account have a significant impact on their ability to deliver basic municipal services. House One and S. 3would level fund PILOT at $26.77 million.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 101 filed by Sen. Hedlund to add $3.5 million to increase PILOT payments to cities and towns, and bring the account up to $30.3 million.

Shannon Anti-Gang Grants
• The Shannon Grant program has been very effective in enabling cities and towns to respond to and suppress gang-related activities. Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 697 filed by Sen. Donoghue to increase funding for the Shannon anti-gang grant program. This amendment would add $2 million and bring total funding up to $8 million, which is the original fiscal 2015 appropriation.

Safe and Successful Youth Initiative
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 813 , filed by Sen. Chang-Diaz to increase funding of the Safe and Supportive Youth Initiative from $5 million to $7.58 million. The program seeks to reduce youth violence through wrap-around services for those most likely to be victims or perpetrators, and is vital to violence prevention efforts in dozens of communities.

Summer Jobs for At-Risk Youth
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 428 filed by Sen. Wolf to increase funding for youth summer jobs from $11.5 million to $12 million. This funding is critical to providing employment opportunities for at-risk teenagers in our cities and towns, especially with youth unemployment rates climbing.

Protection of Municipal Emergency Medical Services
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 775 filed by Sen. Donnelly that would prevent the practice of “pay the patient,” by insurance companies, which undermines the ability of cities and towns to fund and operate responsive and efficient ambulance services that are at the core of emergency medical services in Massachusetts. “Pay the patient” would force communities to pursue their own residents to recoup thousands of dollars in ambulance expenses, a system that is inefficient and subject to abuse. Amendment 775 would also clarify that municipalities are authorized to set a fair rate for ambulance services. Cities and towns set fees and charges for a wide variety of municipal services very strictly limited by state law to the cost of providing the service. This is the same rule that would apply to rate setting for emergency ambulance services. It would ensure that rates are reasonable and prevent insurance companies from shifting costs to local property taxpayers through below-cost reimbursements.

Funding for the State Rehabilitation Tax Credit
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 17 filed by Senators Moore and Tarr. This amendment would increase the capitalization of the State Historic Tax Credit Fund from $50 million to $75 million, bolstering the adaptive reuse of historic buildings in communities across the state and providing an important piece of project financing for many rehabilitative developments.

Closing the Online Room Reseller Tax Loophole
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 23 filed by Senator Montigny to ensure equitable taxation of hotel rooms purchased through online room resellers. Because of a glaring loophole, when a hotel reservation is made through an online hotel room reseller, the tax that is collected is based on an artificially low room rate, not on the room rate that the consumer actually pays. This amendment would ensure that internet resellers cannot avoid collecting and submitting the full state and local room occupancy excise tax based on the actual room rate charged to the consumer. Eliminating this loophole will ensure a level playing field for all parties.

Closing the Vacation Rental Tax Loophole
• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 70 filed by Senator Wolf to modernize the room occupancy tax. This amendment would make the lodging excise applicable to short-term or seasonal lodging rentals in private homes or other similar accommodations. Such short-term rentals have become increasingly popular and common with the expansion of the sharing economy and the advent of online booking sites like Airbnb for such rooms. As with the room reseller issue, eliminating this glaring loophole will provide a level playing field in the lodging industry, and ensure that the existing room occupancy tax is fairly applied in all appropriate instances.

KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON CAPITAL SPENDING PRIORITIES

Community Preservation Act Funding
During fiscal 2015, 156 cities and towns collected the local Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge and are eligible for state matching grants in fiscal 2016. The Division of Local Services (DLS) estimates that the balance in the state trust fund will be sufficient to provide a first round match of only 18 percent of the surcharge levied by each city and town. This would be the lowest state match in the program’s history.

• Please ask your Senators to Support Amendment 54 filed by Senator Creem and others and Amendments 1 and 65 filed by Senators Tarr and Hedlund that would dedicate a portion of any fiscal 2015 year-end state budget surplus, up to $25 million, to supplement the fiscal 2016 state match. The fiscal 2014 state match was supplemented by $25 million from the fiscal 2013 year-end surplus, and $11.4 million was made available last year from the fiscal 2014 surplus.

Please Call Your Senators Today on the Budget Amendments that Impact Your Community!

Thank You!