Her Excellency Maura Healey
Governor of the Commonwealth
State House, Boston

Delivered electronically

Dear Governor Healey,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association very much appreciates your unwavering support of local government. We look forward to working with you and the Legislature in developing a state spending plan for fiscal 2025 that provides cities and towns with the capacity to provide essential services, while also acknowledging the difficult budget circumstances at the local level.

With concerns over the slowing growth in state tax collections, even as the economy remains strong, we recognize the unique challenges you face in creating a responsible fiscal 2025 spending plan that provides new strategic investments and accommodates the existing demands of the state’s budget. This uncertain revenue outlook underscores the importance for a healthy state and local fiscal partnership to provide a dependable foundation for cities and towns.

With a tightly capped property tax that limits municipal revenues, cities and towns require predictable and adequate state revenue sharing in order to provide quality municipal and education services, ensure safe streets and neighborhoods, and maintain local roads and vital infrastructure. These services are fundamental to our state’s economic success and competitiveness.

We are writing today to provide you with additional information on important funding priorities and investments in key municipal and school aid programs for the fiscal 2025 state budget proposal you will file later this month.

Unrestricted General Government Aid
We strongly support an increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), with growth that at least matches the forecasted rate of increase in state tax collections for fiscal 2025, including distribution of the full municipal share of Lottery and other gaming revenue.

Municipal aid was cut deeply during the Great Recession, and currently remains nearly $43 million below the fiscal 2008 level of funding, without adjusting for inflation. With local aid still trailing levels from more than 15 years ago, local dependence on the property tax remains high.

Unrestricted General Government Aid (1233-2350) helps deliver vital services at the local level and will ensure that today’s municipal overreliance on the property tax will not deepen. We are thankful for your support of a stable revenue sharing framework and urge its full implementation in your fiscal 2025 budget submission.

Chapter 70 School Aid
We support funding for Chapter 70 school aid (7061-0008) that continues the promises made in the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). For fiscal 2025, we support funding Chapter 70 in accordance with the SOA’s goal rates, which would represent year four of the six-year rollout period.

Chapter 70 funding must be sufficient to allow all municipal and regional school districts to reach their foundation spending standard, and should also avoid unaffordable increases in minimum required local contributions, a problem that many districts may face due to significantly increased foundation budgets. Without addressing this aspect of the SOA funding challenge, districts with required increases in local contributions that exceed the percentage growth in their own local property tax revenues may be forced to cut funding for essential municipal services, which would only weaken their capacity to deliver critical non-school services to residents.

We also support funding an adequate amount of minimum aid that ensures that all schools receive a meaningful increase in fiscal 2025, which we believe should be at least $100 per student. While the school aid calculation for next year is not yet known, it is very likely that many school districts will again receive only the minimum aid increase (at least $30 per student), which is simply not adequate to maintain quality school programs in these districts. Higher minimum aid is necessary to ensure that no school district or student is left behind. The doubling of minimum aid in the fiscal 2024 budget to $60 per student provided major relief for the 37% of districts that receive minimum aid, with a total cost of $7.8 million (7061-0009).

Charter School Impact Mitigation Payments
We support funding the charter school impact mitigation account (7061-9010) to reimburse school districts at 100%, the rate set forth in the Student Opportunity Act implementation schedule. Increases in assessments levied on local school districts to pay tuition to charter schools have imposed a major financial burden on cities and towns. Because the great majority of K-12 students attend local public schools, underfunding the charter school reimbursement program would have a directly negative impact on the vast majority of schoolchildren. Each impacted district should be fully reimbursed in accordance with the Student Opportunity Act.

Special Education Circuit Breaker
We support full funding of the special education circuit breaker program (7061-0012), through which the state provides a measure of support for services provided to high-cost special education students. This is an essential program that provides critical funding to assist all school districts with the increasingly burdensome and volatile cost of complex and expensive special education services.

We ask for full funding of the state’s share of eligible educational and transportation costs. In fiscal 2024, the program was funded at $498.9 million. We anticipate that full funding of the circuit breaker program could require a substantial increase above this amount in fiscal 2025, as special education transportation expenses are rising faster than inflation. And while we are grateful for the inclusion of special education extraordinary relief funds in the fiscal 2023 closeout supplemental budget, it is presently unclear what the impact of last year’s 14% rate increase for private special education school tuitions will be on this reimbursement program.

Rural School Aid
We respectfully request full funding for the Rural School Aid account (7061-9813), which provides rural school assistance to eligible towns and regional school districts. These grants help schools facing the challenge of declining enrollment identify ways to form regional school districts or regionalize certain school services to create efficiencies. The fiscal 2024 budget funded this account at $15 million, which was meaningful progress toward the goal set forth in the Commission on the Fiscal Health of Rural School Districts report, “A Sustainable Future for Rural Schools,” released in July 2022.

Student Transportation Reimbursements
Funding to assist cities, towns, and school districts with the cost of transporting schoolchildren is another critical priority. The final fiscal 2024 budget funded regional school transportation (7035-0006) at $97 million, representing a reimbursement rate of 90% of DESE’s estimated costs for fiscal 2024. The fiscal 2024 budget also fully funded the McKinney-Vento account for transportation of homeless students (7035-0008) at $28.6 million, and funded out-of-district vocational transportation (7035-0007) at $1 million, a reimbursement of 17% of DESE’s estimated costs. We are grateful for the importance you placed on these accounts in your fiscal 2024 budget proposal last year and hope to see full funding for these three accounts for fiscal 2025.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)
We support full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to the program for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land (1233-2400). This 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.

Surtax Revenue – Local Roads and Bridges
In fiscal 2024, we witnessed the exciting opportunities the voter-approved surtax provided for dedicated funding to support the significant education and transportation needs of the Commonwealth. Of particular importance to municipalities was the inclusion of $100 million in supplemental aid for local roads and bridges (1596-2428). More than 30,000 miles of roads are under municipal control, which represents nearly 90% of all road miles in the Commonwealth. We respectfully request that you continue this critical funding as part of your fiscal 2025 budget proposal. The funds will be put to use immediately by cities and towns to repair crumbling local roads, advance critically needed projects, and improve safety on our neighborhood roadways.

This is a critical time for cities and towns, as inflationary pressures and the constraints of Proposition 2½ have squeezed local operating budgets and impacted key municipal and school services. We look forward to working with you to ensure that every region of the state has the resources and support to propel the Massachusetts economy forward. We believe the priorities outlined above will establish fiscal stability and sustainability at the local level, and ensure that the residents of Massachusetts receive the essential municipal and school services they expect and deserve.

If you have any questions or need additional information regarding any of these municipal priorities, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Deputy Legislative Director Jackie Lavender Bird at any time.

We thank you very much for your support, dedication and commitment to the cities and towns of Massachusetts.


Adam Chapdelaine
MMA Executive Director and CEO

The Honorable Kimberley Driscoll, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth
Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz, Executive Office of Administration and Finance
Senior Deputy Commissioner Sean Cronin, Division of Local Services