The Honorable Jeffrey Sánchez
Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means
The Honorable Joan Lovely
Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Ways and Means
State House, Boston

Dear Representative Sánchez and Senator Lovely,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is taking this opportunity to again record our comments in support of support several important municipal provisions in the year-end fiscal 2018 supplemental budget bill (H. 4758) filed by the Governor on July 13. We also support provisions in earlier budget recommendations that would make much needed technical corrections to sections of the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016.

We ask that these provisions be approved by the Legislature as soon as possible.

After two fiscal years where tax collections fell below expectations at the close of the year, it was a relief that fiscal 2018 collections grew by $2.2 billion (8.6 percent), and $1.1 billion over the benchmark. The expected deposit of nearly $500 million into the state’s Stabilization Fund is good news. The Governor has proposed to use a small part of the unanticipated tax revenue to supplement underfunded school aid accounts in fiscal 2018, and to provide one-time funding for infrastructure projects.

We strongly support the proposed appropriation of $40 million for grants to cities and towns for the construction and improvement of municipal ways (1595-6386) and $10 million for the municipal small bridge and complete streets programs (1595-6387). We support the $30 million transfer to the Clean Water Trust (1599-0093) to help pay for improvements to local water systems. This additional funding for local capital projects will help move local government closer to a state of good repair for local infrastructure, which will result in lower costs in the future.

We support the proposed appropriation of $12.5 million for the special education circuit breaker program. This would bring fiscal 2018 to full funding of the state’s share of this important program. We also support the $7.0 million appropriation for student transportation in regional school districts, which would bring state funding closer to the full funding mark. Funding for these programs was limited earlier in the year when the state revenue forecast was uncertain.

The Governor’s bill also includes appropriations for targeted assistance to local school districts, including $40 million for multi-year grants to enhance behavioral health resources (7061-0010), $32.2 million for school safety (7009-6800) and $30 million for the targeted intervention program (7061-9408). These are important proposals to consider, yet we would also highlight our very strong support for full funding of charter school reimbursements, which is not included in H. 4758. This is a vital priority that is essential for communities throughout Massachusetts, especially lower-income districts that have been disproportionately impacted by the seriously flawed method of financing charter schools. We ask that the fiscal 2018 shortfall of $74.8 million be fully funded in your final appropriations bill. To provide a snapshot of the scope of this issue, the formula calls for funding 100% of first-year charter school students, but only 66% funding is provided in fiscal 2018, and no funding is provided to reimburse communities for funds lost in years 2 through 6. Fully funding the first-year commitment called for in the statutory formula would require an additional $18.7 million, and $56.1 million would provide funding for the 25% share for years 2-6. We ask that this be included in your year-end bill.

We support the appropriation of $375,000 for the Human Resources Division (1750-0928) that is needed for the revalidation of Civil Service examinations (including the municipal police and fire medical standards) and to lease space for the physical abilities test.

In addition, we ask you to support the technical corrections to the Municipal Modernization Act first proposed in the fiscal 2018 supplemental budget bill (H. 4231) that the Governor filed on February 8. Some of these are time-sensitive corrections needed to avoid financial problems at the local level, including section 18 related to the use of proceeds from the sale of real estate.

Please do not hesitate to have your office contact us at any time if you have any questions or need additional information.

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

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO

cc: The Honorable Robert DeLeo, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen Spilka, Senate President