Category Archives: Massachusetts Municipal Association

MMA analysis of Gov.’s budget

MMA-2

Dear Osler,

 

GOV. BAKER FILES $40.9 BILLION FY 2019

BUDGET PROPOSAL

• 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.

 

 

Click here to see the Division of Local Services preliminary fiscal 2019 Cherry Sheet aid amounts for your community, based on the Governor’s proposed budget (you will need to insert the name of your community in the field)

 

Click here to see DESE’s calculation of fiscal 2019 Chapter 70 aid and Net School Spending requirements for your city, town, or regional school district, based on the Governor’s proposed budget

 

 

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

 

THANK YOU!

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Problems for Medfield in the proposed tax legislation, per MMA

This alert from the Massachusetts Municipal Association on the proposed federal tax changes.  Current Medfield State Hospital plans would be DOA if the historic tax credits are eliminated, as plans are not viable without those HTC’s.  See other issues that are bad for towns.

MMA-2

Dear Osler,

The tax reform debate on Capitol Hill will have real implications for local taxpayers and municipal finance in Massachusetts – the current version that the U.S. House of Representatives will be debating next week contains provisions that would increase the tax burden on middle-class taxpayers in our state, and remove important municipal finance tools to build local economies.

Please call your Members of Congress today and ask them to protect local taxpayers by preserving the State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions, the Historic Tax Credit, and all tax-exempt bonds.

Click here for the contact information

for U.S. Representatives and Senators from Massachusetts

In coming days, both chambers of Congress are preparing to take initial votes on a wide-ranging federal tax reform bill. As currently drafted, the bill would have a negative impact on cities and towns through four major policy changes: it eliminates State and Local Tax Deductions (SALT), caps property tax deductions, eliminates deductibility of key municipal bonds, and axes the Historic Tax Credit.

Ending SALT deductions would violate a 104-year promise by the Federal Government against double taxation. This provision would have a drastic impact on taxpayers and municipal governments across the Commonwealth. Over half of Massachusetts’ taxpayers deduct state and local taxes, and all would see a painful increase in their tax burden should this bill become law. This would make it much harder for municipal and state officials to fund key services, due to the higher effective tax rate on households in Massachusetts.

Eliminating the Historic Tax Credit would harm investments in our communities. This is especially important for states such as Massachusetts, with many older buildings and factories in need of preservation and redevelopment.

Capping the property tax deduction at $10,000 would be especially painful for citizens of the Commonwealth, where there are already over two dozen communities in which the average property tax bill is higher than that limit today. Capping this deduction will make it harder for communities to fund vital services such as public schools, police and fire services, and infrastructure.

Provisions revoking the tax-exempt status of Private Activity Bonds (PABs) and eliminating Advanced Bond Refunding would damage local finances and economic development. PABs are an essential tool used to leverage private investment in much-needed local housing and economic development projects, while Advanced Bond Refunding allows taxpayers to refinance and save money on municipal bonds during economic downturns.

The MMA opposed these provisions in a press conference with Senator Edward Markey after Congressional leaders released their plan last week, because of the negative impact this bill would have on cities and towns in the Commonwealth.

Click here to read the National League of Cities’ statement opposing the elimination of SALT deductions.

Also, click here to read a letter to Congress on this issue from the NLC, signed by the MMA and 21 other state municipal associations from across the country.

 

It is critically important that our Congressional delegation hear from you on this issue. This bill would lead to an unprecedented double taxation of Massachusetts citizens, harm investments in local communities, and cost taxpayers more to finance municipal obligations.

A broad nonpartisan coalition is working to protect municipal concerns. Changes to tax policy should be balanced and well thought out, which is why the MMA has joined with a wide range of nonpartisan groups to protect cities and towns, including the National League of Cities, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International City/County Management Association, the US Conference of Mayors, and the Government Finance Officers Association. US Senators Markey and Warren, and Governor Baker have all voiced opposition to eliminating key taxpayer protections, such as the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT).

Also, the MMA would like to thank Congressman Richard Neal (1st Congressional District in Western Mass.), the Ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee for his steadfast support of municipal concerns during the committee deliberations this week.

If you have any questions about the bill or its impacts, please do not hesitate to call or email MMA Legislative Analyst David Lakeman at 617-426-7272 at any time.

 

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS TODAY

MMA says state budget protected municipalities

This alert came yesterday from the Massachusetts Municipal Association with its analysis of the state budget that passed the legislature this week: “Legislators recognize that cities and towns have already passed their fiscal 2018 budgets, which is why they protected the UGGA and Chapter 70 increases that were announced earlier this year and included in the House and Senate budgets.”

MMA

July 7, 2017
 

LEGISLATURE’S FY 2018 STATE BUDGET FULLY FUNDS 39.9 MILLION UGGA INCREASE

LAWMAKERS VOTE TODAY ON THE BUDGET AFTER LOWERING FY 2018 REVENUE ESTIMATES BY $700M

IN SPITE OF WIDESPREAD CUTS TO STATE ACCOUNTS, LEGISLATORS MAINTAIN KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID

• INCLUDES THE FULL $39.9M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (UGGA)

• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 TO $4.75B TO FUND MINIMUM AID AT $30 PER STUDENT

• CH. 70 INCLUDES $12.5M TO PROTECT AGAINST LOST FUNDING FOR LOW-INCOME STUDENTS

• ADDS $4M TO SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER

• LEVEL-FUNDS MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

• AIRBNB LODGING TAX REFORMS DEFERRED TO SEPARATE LEGISLATION 

 

Earlier this morning, the Legislature’s budget conference committee reported out a lean $40.2 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan that is based on a $700 million reduction in expected tax revenues for next year. Very weak tax collections this year have created a $440 million hole in the FY 2017 budget, and forced lawmakers to make a $700 million downward adjustment in their FY 2018 forecast.

The House and Senate have scheduled formal sessions for this afternoon (Friday, July 7th), and it is expected that legislators will vote to approve and send the budget to Governor Baker today. The Governor will then have 10 days to sign, veto or recommend changes to the appropriations and outside sections.

While the Legislature’s budget enacts widespread reductions in state budget accounts, Representatives and Senators are clearly protecting and prioritizing municipal and school aid, as the conference committee budget (H. 3800) makes key investments in local aid priorities, including a $39.9 million increase in unrestricted municipal aid (UGGA), a $119 million increase in Chapter 70 school aid, and a $4 million increase in special education reimbursements. The remaining accounts are generally level funded.

Legislators recognize that cities and towns have already passed their fiscal 2018 budgets, which is why they protected the UGGA and Chapter 70 increases that were announced earlier this year and included in the House and Senate budgets. Any last-minute reductions in UGGA or Chapter 70 would have disrupted local budgets and forced mid-year cuts. Fortunately, lawmakers went to great lengths to prevent this.

Please Click this Link Now to Download H. 3800, the Legislature’s Fiscal 2018 Budget – You Can See Your Community’s UGGA and Chapter 70 Amounts in Section 3 of the Budget, which Starts on Page 226
$39.9 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, the Legislature’s fiscal 2018 budget plan provides $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $39.9 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker and voted by the House and Senate. Almost all of UGGA funding comes from $985M in expected Lottery proceeds and $65M from the Plainridge gaming facility. The full $39.9 million UGGA increase is a top priority for cities and towns, because municipalities are counting on these funds to balance their budgets and maintain essential services for their residents.

CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $30 PER STUDENT
With $4.75 billion for Chapter 70 aid, the Legislature’s budget includes a $119 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid (this is $27.5 million higher than the $91.4 million increase in House One), providing a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget). The Legislature’s budget continues to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007, and builds on the proposal by the Governor to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework. The Legislature’s budget increases foundation budget funding by adding more weight to the health insurance cost factor.

The Legislature’s budget includes $12.5M in the Chapter 70 appropriation to hold school districts harmless from changes in the method of counting low-income students. This is similar to the Legislature’s handling of the problem in the fiscal 2017 budget. H. 3800 includes language stating that this “transitional” assistance to address the problems in calculating low-income student costs is included in the per-district distribution amounts listed in Section 3 of the budget.

In the context of a very tight budget year, the Legislature’s increase in Chapter 70 funding is certainly welcome progress. The MMA continues to give top priority to full funding for the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and over the long-term will work to build on this increase.

$4 MILLION INCREASE FOR THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another budget advancement for cities and towns, the Legislature’s budget would add $4 million to the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, providing $281 million. The Governor’s budget proposed level-funding at $277 million. The $4 million increase is a step forward, although this is still short of full funding for a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The MMA will work to continue building on this welcome increase.

FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS REMAINS FLAT
The Legislature’s budget 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 2017 funding level is $54.6 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. If this program is level funded, the shortfall will grow to an estimated $76.4 million in fiscal 2018. 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 is a major priority for the MMA.

REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, McKINNEY-VENTO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
Compared to current fiscal 2017 appropriations, the Legislature’s fiscal 2018 budget increases Regional School Transportation Reimbursements by $1 million (up to $61.5 million), a very important account for smaller and rural communities. The budget would level-fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, add $188K to library grant programs, level-fund METCO, and fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.1 million, a reduction of $250K. The Legislature’s budget would level-fund Shannon Anti-Gang Grants at $6 million.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE BUDGET DEFERS IMPORTANT IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LOCAL AND STATE LODGING EXCISE TAX TO SEPARATE LEGISLATION
The Legislature’s final budget defers action on important reforms to the room occupancy excise. Progress on this issue will now focus on separate legislation that is being crafted by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz in the House. The Senate budget had included language to close loopholes that allow the increasing variety of transient and other short-term rentals to escape taxation, including rentals through Airbnb and other similar online companies and through on-line re-sellers. These are important steps to bring parity and a level-playing field to the collection of lodging excise payments, and the MMA will continue to work hard to achieve passage this year.

Please Call Your Representatives and Senators Today to Say Thank You for the Local Aid Investments in the Legislature’s Budget – Including the $39.9 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid and the $119 Million Increase in Chapter 70 School Aid

Thank You Very Much!

 

MMA’s agenda

MMA

This from the Massachusetts Municipal Association this week with its agenda items:

January 30, 2017
MMA FILES LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO BE CO-SPONSORS

The Deadline for Signing is Friday, February 3, at 5 p.m.

The MMA has filed 19 local government bills approved by the Board of Directors for consideration by the Legislature in the new 2017-2018 legislative session.

The bills have been filed by lead sponsors in the House and Senate and now are available to be signed by legislators wishing to be co-sponsors. Co-sponsors are important. Please ask your legislators to sign on to these municipal bills. House and Senate members can sign on and co- sponsor bills that have been filed in either branch. The deadline is Friday, February 3, at 5 p.m. If your legislators are lead sponsors, please tell them thank you.

Many of the MMA’s proposals are continued priorities from previous sessions, and eight are new measures, including legislation to provide cities and towns with new local-option tax options, and a bill to increase municipal authority over utility companies’ use of city and town roadways. Among the refiled petitions are bills that would reform parts of Civil Service, allow cities and towns to set the number of local liquor licenses in their communities, and provide marketing assistance for local economic development campaigns.

Below is a list of the MMA legislative package with brief description of each, and the House and Senate docket numbers along with the names of the lead sponsors. A more detailed description of each bill is on the MMA website at the following link: http://www.mma.org/advocacy/mma-legislative-package. These measures are stand-alone proposals; the MMA’s entire legislative agenda is much broader, and includes dozens of priorities in the annual state budget bill, and work with the Legislature to support or oppose hundreds of other bills during the session.

Please note that each bill listed below has a temporary docket number that will be changed to a more formal bill number when referred to a legislative committee over the next few weeks.

Local-option excise on alcohol for substance abuse prevention and public health programs
Senate docket 484, Senator Cynthia Creem
This bill would allow cities and towns, upon local vote, to adopt a tax of up to 2 percent on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages, including sales in bars, restaurants, package stores and other non-pouring establishments. The revenue would be dedicated to help pay for local substance abuse and other public health programs.

Payments in lieu of taxation
House docket 1362, Rep. Stephen Kulik
This bill would allow cities and towns, upon local vote, to require certain tax-exempt charitable organizations to make payments in lieu of taxation to host cities and towns equal to 25 percent of what they would pay if the property were not exempt. The bill would require cities and towns to adopt bylaws or ordinances to provide for agreements between the municipality and organizations that may provide for exemptions from payment, consideration of community benefits as payment, and administration of payments.

Local-option fuel excise for transportation and stormwater infrastructure programs
House docket 1109, Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli
This bill would allow cities and towns to adopt a local-option tax on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel of up to 5 cents per gallon that would be collected in the same manner as the state excise. The revenue would be dedicated to help pay for local transportation programs (infrastructure and services) and stormwater programs.

Local-option meals tax
Senate docket 586, Senator Jason Lewis
The MMA bill would increase the maximum local-option sales tax on meals from 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent.

Identifying financial impacts of proposed environmental regulations
House docket 1384, Rep. Jeffrey Roy
Senate docket 49, Senator Michael Moore
This bill would establish a mechanism for identifying and describing the costs, benefits and financial impacts of proposed environmental rules and regulations before they take effect.

Sustainable water resource funds
House docket 2403, Rep. Carolyn Dykema
Senate docket 393, Senator Jamie Eldridge
This bill would clarify and strengthen the authority of cities and towns to establish water, stormwater, and wastewater utility fees in order to protect municipal public health and meet federal Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and other state and federal environmental requirements.

Minimum reliability contributions from net metering recipients
Senate docket 1334, Senator Anne Gobi
This bill would exempt municipalities that receive renewable energy net metering credits, low- income and community solar ratepayers from any monthly minimum reliability contribution.

Municipal control of liquor licenses
House docket 561, Rep. Denise Provost
Senate docket 354, Senator Jamie Eldridge
This bill would give the municipal legislative body the authority to set the number of liquor licenses available in the municipality.

Commission to study the administration of veterans’ benefits
House docket 1635, Rep. Stephen Kulik
This bill would create a special commission to study the administration of benefits offered to veterans under Chapter 115 of the General Laws, including which benefits are offered, how they are administered, and the role of local veterans’ service officers.

Marketing prioritized development sites
Senate docket 193, Senator Lewis
This bill would require the Massachusetts Office of Business Development to create and maintain, either independently or through a partnership with an external entity, a statewide searchable database of developable land and vacant sites, with listings submitted at no cost by local officials.

Promoting local economic development
Senate docket 191, Senator Jason Lewis
This bill would create a program to provide funding or other opportunities, such as technical assistance, to municipalities or regions that maximize opportunities for economic development planning and growth by meeting a series of criteria.

Local impacts of enacted legislation
House docket 154, Rep. James Cantwell
Senate docket 336, Senator Anne Gobi
This bill would require the Executive Office, upon signing legislation, to attach a fiscal note specifying the local impacts of the legislation.

Retiree Benefits Trust Fund
House docket 2249, Rep. Alice Peisch
This bill would add two seats to the State Retiree Benefits Trust Fund Board, one municipal seat and one “schools” seat. This proposal would ensure the municipal and regional school district perspectives are recognized on the SRBTF Board.

Civil service reform
House docket 1364, Rep. Stephen Kulik
This bill would allow cities and towns to exit Civil Service at local option without approval by the Legislature. The bill would require the city or town to provide documentation that outlines the local policy or policies that would replace the Civil Service statute.

Municipal unemployment insurance reforms
Senate docket 271, Senator Cynthia Creem
This bill would extend “reasonable assurance” to employees who work on behalf of the school system but are paid through the municipal budget. This would ensure that employees couldn’t collect unemployment insurance benefits when school is not in session. This bill would also address the issue of retirees collecting both unemployment benefits and a pension from the same public or private employer, by reducing unemployment benefits by an amount equal to 65 percent of the employee’s weekly pension.

Structure of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board
House docket 336, Rep. Aaron Vega
This bill would modify the membership of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board to require that the three members include a management representative, a labor representative, and a neutral party.

Municipal authority in public rights of way
House docket 2265, Rep. Stephen Kulik
This bill would give municipalities increased authority over utilities that operate in the public right of way. The bill would specify that, if utilities delay in relocating poles and wires, municipalities have the authority to move poles and wires, and may charge utilities for non-performance. It would give municipalities the authority to adopt bylaws and ordinances related to imposing fees and fines, assessing taxes, and licensing and permitting of utility companies that operate in the public right of way.

Municipal purchase of utility poles
House docket 2279, Rep. Stephen Kulik
This bill would give municipalities and public utilities the right to purchase utility poles from investor-owned utilities at a price that takes into account depreciation in value of the utility poles.

Seat belts on school buses
House docket 1973, Rep. Joseph McGonagle
This bill would require that all school buses in the Commonwealth be equipped with seat belts within five years.

PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO BE CO-SPONSORS

Thank You!

Brexit to cost Medfield $

MMA

MMA alert today –


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

STATE BUDGET WOES DEEPEN, STATE FACING FISCAL 2017 REVENUE GAP OF UP TO $950 MILLION

PLEASE CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY TO ENSURE THAT CITIES AND TOWNS ARE PROTECTED AS LAWMAKERS SEEK TO CLOSE WIDENING FISCAL 2017 DEFICIT

Brexit Vote Destabilizes World Economy, State Leaders Predict Further Loss of Tax Revenue for Fiscal 2017

As we reported in an MMA Action Alert yesterday (Monday), deliberations on the fiscal 2017 state budget have been thrown into disarray by a major slump in state tax collections. Unfortunately, the state’s fiscal picture has darkened even more.

Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Baker announced that the revenue shortfall for fiscal 2017 is likely to be $200 million worse than the gloomy projections made less than two weeks ago, mostly as a result of widespread unrest and financial volatility stemming from the Brexit vote, combined with lower-than-expected tax collections as the state closes fiscal year 2016.

The new estimate is that fiscal 2017 tax revenues will be $650 million to $950 million lower than originally thought.

This is bad news, because a revenue loss of this magnitude will force deep cuts across all aspects of the new state budget. The three separate fiscal 2017 budgets set by the Governor, House and Senate were all based on the original, higher revenue projection, which means all of the plans are out of balance.

The Legislature has passed a temporary 1-month budget to cover state obligations through the end of July and provide some breathing room for legislators while they dramatically scale back their fiscal 2017 budget.

It is imperative to remind your legislators that cities and towns have already set their budgets based on reasonable estimates of local aid and education funding. Any cuts to municipal or school accounts would trigger major budget problems in all 351 cities and towns. Any local aid reductions at this point would be incredibly disruptive, and would force communities to reopen their already-passed budgets and impose mid-year cuts.

Please call your legislators today to oppose cuts to Cherry Sheet Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), Chapter 70 school aid and other municipal and school aid accounts that are included in your local spending plans. Reliance on the property tax to fund municipal and school services is at a 30-year high, and it is too late to pursue tax overrides to replace lost local aid. Any local aid reduction would translate into cuts in essential services and programs that are necessary for our economic growth and stability.

Please Call Your Legislators Today and Ask Them to Protect Local Aid

 

MMA (& OLP) to legislators

MMA

The Massachusetts Municipal Association today asked me to lobby our legislators about pending items, and in response I sent our Senator and Representatives the email below:


Dear Senator Timilty, and Representatives Garlick and Dooley,

I have generally come to have great faith in the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and therefore when the MMA asks me to support things, I usually believe that doing so is the right thing to do.

For your information, I have inserted below the MMA’s agenda for the remainder of your legislative session:


June 27, 2016

 

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS TODAY TO ENSURE THAT CITIES AND TOWNS ARE PROTECTED DURING THE LEGISLATURE’S END OF SESSION SPRINT

 

With Just 5 Weeks Remaining in the Session, Now is the Time to Ask Legislators to Address Municipal Concerns and Priorities

 

With the end of the formal legislative sessions just a few weeks away (the two-year legislative session will end on July 31), the House and Senate are looking at a long list of bills, large and small, that will need final approval by July 31 or have to start anew next January. Many of these bills would significantly impact cities and towns.

 

Please talk with your legislators this week and ask them to prioritize cities and towns during the end-of-session rush. The major issues in play include the following:

 

Balancing the Fiscal 2017 State Budget without Harming Cities and Towns

 

The House and Senate have each approved $39.5 billion state budget proposals for fiscal year 2017 (H. 4201 and S. 2305), and are now negotiating a final consensus bill. However, this process has been thrown into disarray by a major slump in state tax collections. The Governor has announced that fiscal 2017 revenues will certainly come in far below earlier predictions, saying that the shortfall is at least $450 million and as much as $750 million.

 

The Legislature has passed a temporary 1-month budget to cover state obligations through the end of July and provide some breathing room for legislators while they dramatically scale back their fiscal 2017 budget. It is imperative to remind your legislators that cities and towns have already set their budgets based on reasonable estimates of local aid and education funding. Any cuts to municipal or school accounts would trigger major budget problems in all 351 cities and towns. Any cuts at this point would be incredibly disruptive.

 

Ask your legislators to oppose cuts to Cherry Sheet Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), Chapter 70 school aid and other municipal and school aid accounts that are included in your local sending plans. Also ask your legislators to oppose Section 46 of the Senate budget (S. 2305), which would strip cities and towns of their ability to change contribution ratios for retiree health insurance, and make it extremely difficult to address runaway OPEB costs.

 

Now is the Time for the Senate to Pass the Municipal Modernization Act

 

The Municipal Modernization bill filed by the Governor last December has moved through a long process, and has received unanimous approval by the House. H. 4419 includes over 200 sections to streamline and update state laws and regulations that interfere with the administration of local government. Although some of the stronger reforms in the original bill have been taken out, the Municipal Modernization Act still includes a wide array of long-overdue and very welcome updates to municipal finance and administrative laws.

 

Please ask your Senators to promise swift and timely action on H. 4419 to make sure that the bill makes it to the Governor’s Desk. This must be a key priority for legislators – there is absolutely no reason to delay action on this long-overdue legislation.

 

Ask Your Senators and Representatives to Oppose the New Unfunded Mandates in the Municipal Solid Waste/Recycling Bill (S. 2308)

 

This week, the Senate is expected to take up legislation to require cities and towns to reduce municipal solid waste to a maximum of 600 pounds per capita by 2018 and 450 pounds per capita by 2022. This bill (S. 2308) would provide NO financial support, meaningful technical assistance or effective pathway to achieve these mandated limits. In effect, S. 2308 is the classic example of an unfunded environmental mandate. The bill is well-intentioned, but completely fails to recognize the financial limitations that exist in cities and towns, and makes no effort to have the state assume any responsibility for providing any funding or resources. Please ask your legislative delegation to oppose this bill. The Senate could vote as early as Tuesday, June 28, so it is important that your Senators hear from you as soon as possible.

 

Click here to download a copy of MMA’s letter to the Senate outlining the problems the legislation would cause.

 

Ask Your Representatives to Reject the Intrusions on Local Zoning Passed by the Senate

 

On June 9, the Senate approved a surprisingly broad and intrusive housing and zoning bill (S. 4419) that completely overrode an earlier planning bill that had been in the works for years. The Senate-voted bill would override important features of local zoning bylaws and ordinances and expose cities and towns to lawsuits. The bill would require cities and towns across the state to make zoning changes to create “as-of-right” multi-family housing districts or face legal action brought by either the attorney general or builders and land developers seeking permits. S. 4419 would also require accessory apartments to be permitted as-of-right and would override the dozens and dozens of accessory apartment bylaws currently in place based on special permits. In effect, the bill would grant unprecedented new “as-of-right” powers to for-profit developers, with NO requirements that these developers produce any affordable units. Instead, developers would be incentivized to pursue high-end, luxury developments, making it harder for communities to meet their affordable housing goals. The bill also made significant changes to weaken the inclusionary zoning provision that local officials have been promoting for many years, and would provide only a limited authority to collect development impact fees. The bill would also subject municipal zoning codes to challenge under the state’s anti-discrimination statue.

 

Please ask your Representatives to hold and take no action on the Senate’s housing bill. It is too late in the year to try to finalize a bill of this importance and with such major differences between the original planning bill and the Senate re-write. Unfortunately, work on this this important issue must wait until next year. Rushing S. 4419 through at this time would have an extraordinary impact on municipal zoning, with very little understanding of the consequences for downtown development and the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the state.

 

Other Bills on the House and Senate Calendars

 

There are dozens of bills on the ongoing House and Senate calendars that would have an impact on local government, including many that have posted there for weeks or months awaiting action. There are more than 60 of these bills on the House calendar alone. Some would help cities and towns, but many would reduce local revenues or impose new unfunded mandates. As the legislative session draws to a close, there will be pressure brought to bear in both branches to quickly approve these long-held bills.

 

Ask your legislators to keep an eye on bills moving from the House and Senate calendars to make sure there are no burdensome special interest bills that make it to the Governor’s desk. Extra vigilance is needed at the end of session.

 

MMA Board Votes to Oppose Marijuana and Charter School Ballot Questions

 

As the final signatures are being submitted for the statewide ballot questions, we want to update you on the vote of the MMA Board of Directors earlier this month. On June 14, the Board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of the Municipal and Regional Administration Policy Committee to oppose the marijuana ballot question (H. 3932). The Board also voted unanimously to support the recommendation of the Fiscal Policy Committee to oppose the charter school ballot question (H. 3928). The MMA will be providing more information on the ballot questions next month, after each receives final approval to appear on the ballot at the November 8, 2016 election.

 

If you have any questions on the issues highlighted above, or on any other measure, please contact MMA Legislative Director John Robertson or any member of the Legislative Division at 617-426-7272.


 

Best,

Pete

Osler L. Peterson, Esq.

MMA on new public records law

MMA-2

The MMA sent this second alert this afternoon, on the public records law that has now come out of a conference committee. I find myself torn on this one, as i feel there should be easy access to all public records, but I have heard Goeff Beckwith, Executive Director of the MMA say that the House version was preferred due to the House including more reasonable payments to the towns for responding, and thereby avoiding potential costs for towns from unreasonable public records requests.


Monday, May 23, 2016

LEGISLATURE TO VOTE ON FINAL PUBLIC RECORDS BILL

Conference Committee Report Would Limit Fees and Expose Communities to Attorneys’ Fees & Court Costs in Litigation

House Vote Scheduled for Wednesday

At 4:00 p.m. on Monday, May 23, the six members of the House-Senate conference committee on legislation to update the public records law reached agreement on a compromise bill, and reported it out to the full Legislature for an up-or-down vote later this week.

The Conference Committee bill differs in many important respects from H. 3858, the measure passed by the House of Representatives in November, and appears generally closer to S. 2127, the bill passed by the Senate in February. The bill would limit or set conditions on the fees that cities and towns can charge, and would create a more litigious process that could require the courts to award attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs in many circumstances.

Local officials and the MMA are not opposed to passage of legislation updating the public records laws. Rather, we have been calling for balanced and realistic changes to prevent the imposition of unfunded mandates on cities and towns, and to ensure that local officials have enough time and flexibility to comply with the act without diverting resources and time from their other important public services and duties on behalf of local residents and taxpayers.

However, the MMA’s analysis concludes that the Conference Committee’s bill would limit the ability of cities and towns to be reimbursed for responding to records requests by requiring communities to receive special permission from the Supervisor of Records every time they wish to reimbursed for time spent segregating or redacting records. Further, communities would need to receive special permission to charge more than $25/hour, which is quite common when department heads and attorneys need to participate in the process. Thus, the MMA believes that the bill has the potential to impose significant new financial burdens on cities and towns.

The MMA is also concerned that the bill could expose public entities and taxpayers to threats of expensive litigation by creating a presumption that courts should award attorneys’ fees and court costs in all but a narrow list of circumstances if the plaintiff receives any relief through a judicial order, consent decree, or if the municipality provides any of the requested documents after the complaint is filed. This provision could create an incentive for plaintiff attorneys to excessively litigate.

In general, the bill creates a more detailed set of statutory requirements that must be fulfilled under the state’s public records act, including new timelines, fee structures, administrative and judicial appeals processes, and new requirements for the administration of the law at the local level. The major changes as they impact cities and towns are outlined below.

Please review the draft of the Conference Committee’s public records legislation by clicking HERE (redraft of H. 3858 and S. 2127)

MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE’S PUBLIC RECORDS BILL INCLUDE:       

Enforceable Timelines:

  • Cities, towns and state agencies would have 10 business days to respond to every public records request, with an itemized “good faith” estimate of the fee to be charged, an explanation of the time necessary to fully comply with the request if it will take longer than 10 days (cities and towns would have up to 25 business days from the day the request is received), and a listing of the documents or categories of requested documents that will be withheld by the municipality or agency under existing state and federal law (there is no change to the current list of excluded documents that may be withheld).
  • Cities, towns and state agencies could appeal to the Supervisor of Public Records for more time to comply with a public records request if the magnitude or difficulty of the request is too burdensome to complete in 25 business days, or if they believe the request has been submitted to harass the municipality.
  • The Supervisor of Records could grant communities up to 30 additional business days to comply with a request, based on a petition submitted by a municipal records officer, or could grant a longer extension if the request is deemed to be frivolous or harassing in nature.
  • Requestors could appeal to Superior Court to challenge the fee estimate, to reduce the time that municipalities could take to comply, or to challenge whether a requested document could be withheld under state or federal law.

Limits on Fees:

  • Copying charges would be limited to 5 cents per page, and the charge for electronic storage devices would be capped at actual cost.
  • The Conference Committee bill would place limits on the reimbursements that cities and towns could receive for the time spent by employees and necessary vendors (outside counsel, technology and payroll consultants, e.g.) as follows:
    • First, cities and towns would be prohibited from charging any fees if they do not adequately respond to the records request within 10 business days of receipt;
    • Second, reimbursement for employees and necessary vendors would be capped at the rate of the lowest paid employee who has the skill to search for, segregate, redact or reproduce the requested records, or $25 per hour, whichever is lower. Communities could only be reimbursed at a higher rate if they petition and receive special permission from the Supervisor of Records;
    • Third, cities and towns could only be reimbursed for time spent segregating or redacting records if the segregation and redaction is required by law, or the community petitions and receives special permission from the Supervisor of Records. This will impose a very cumbersome and bureaucratic process on municipalities, and it is unclear whether the final outcome would be full reimbursement, as the Supervisor of Records would have the power to deny adequate rates, and apparently would not be required to approve reimbursement for segregation and redaction of records that are allowed under the many exemptions in the law, but are not mandated by the law; and
    • Fourth, communities with a population over 20,000 would be required to waive any fee for the first two hours of employee or vendor time spent complying with a request.
  • Requestors could appeal to the Superior Court to challenge the fee estimate or any fee approved by the Supervisor of Records.

Litigation and Enforcement:

  • Requestors could appeal to the Supervisor of Records or the Superior Court at any time for non-compliance, to challenge fee amounts, or to challenge whether a requested record could be withheld.
  • The bill could expose public entities and taxpayers to threats of expensive litigation because it creates a presumption that courts should award attorneys’ fees and court costs in all but a narrow list of circumstances if the plaintiff receives any relief through a judicial order, consent decree, or if the municipality provides any of the requested documents after a complaint is filed. This provision constrains judicial discretion, and could create an incentive for plaintiff attorneys to excessively litigate.
  • Courts would have to provide a written explanation if they choose not to award attorneys’ fees or court costs.
  • If attorneys’ fees or court costs are awarded, municipalities and state agencies would be required to waive all fees for responding to the request.
  • Courts could assess punitive damages of up to $5,000 if it is determined that a municipality or state agency did not act in good faith.
  • The Attorney General would be given enhanced power to enforce the public records act, and the AG’s intervention could also result in similar punitive damages and fee waivers.

Other New Requirements:

  • Cities, towns and state agencies would be required to appoint at least one records access officer to assist with all public records requests, to facilitate compliance, to publicize the public records request process, and, beginning on July 1, 2017, begin posting commonly requested records on the municipal website.
  • If feasible, future upgrades to databases and computer systems should include enhancements to make it easier to comply with public records requests.
  • If the record(s) exist in an electronic format, municipalities and state agencies would be required to provide the record(s) in that format or in a commonly used electronic format if so requested by the person filing the records request.
  • If passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the new public records law would take effect on January 1, 2017. The Secretary of State would be required to promulgate new regulations on the law by January 1, 2017 at the latest.

Please Call Your Legislators Today to Discuss the Public Records Legislation and Express Your Concerns.

Thank You Very Much.