The Honorable Aaron M. Michlewitz, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Ways and Means
State House, Boston

Delivered electronically

Dear Chair Michlewitz and Chair Rodrigues:

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association deeply appreciates your strong support for local government, including the investments provided to cities and towns throughout the first year of this legislative session. Your commitment to municipalities was clear through significant increases in the fiscal 2024 budget for municipal and education aid as well as passage of a major transportation bond bill with a focus on funding for local roads and bridges. Additionally, municipal officials appreciate your leadership and dedicated work in passing a major tax relief bill, which will help residents and businesses throughout the Commonwealth and in our communities.

We look forward to working with you and your colleagues during the final months of this calendar year, and understand that you will be focused on a number of remaining priorities, including closing the books on fiscal 2023. We write today to share some municipal priorities and the meaningful impact these items will have on all 351 cities and towns.

FY23 Closeout Supplemental Budget

As you consider the fiscal year 2023 closeout supplemental budget bill, H. 4090, An Act Making Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations and for Certain Other Activities and Projects, we draw your attention to priority issues for municipalities:

Emergency Shelter System Aid: The Governor’s proposal suggests allocating $250 million (1599-0514) from the state’s transitional escrow fund to address ongoing emergency shelter needs. These one-time funds would allow the Administration to reimburse costs incurred to provide services and shelter to close to 7,000 families in Massachusetts. Municipal officials have been on the front lines of this emergency, laudably managing a rapid influx of new families into their communities and new children into school districts. However, this unique situation has strained local resources and additional funding to support and reimburse these efforts is greatly needed. We know supporting our communities through this challenge is a priority of the House and Senate, and we are grateful for your consideration of supplemental funding to address these ongoing costs.

Disaster Relief Technical Change: Cities and towns are thankful for the $20 million of disaster relief funding provided in the August supplemental budget for recent natural disaster impacts. H. 4090 includes a separate but related technical change that will assist all municipalities manage the financial impacts from natural disasters. These events have been occurring more frequently due to the effects of climate change, and municipal officials are seeking additional fiscal tools to ease the massive costs these events can often cause at the local level. Section 39 of H. 4090 would allow municipalities impacted by natural disasters to amortize the costs of these emergencies over multiple years.

We also request your consideration of additional municipal priorities that were noted in the filing letter from the Governor accompanying H. 4090. These are three items included in a previous supplemental budget filing by Governor Healey, H. 3545, but are still outstanding needs for cities and towns:

Municipal Finance Changes
We respectfully ask for your support and inclusion of the nine technical municipal finance changes included in H. 3545 (Sections 6, 8-12, 18, 23, 24). These changes would serve to modernize and streamline certain municipal finance rules. While all of these changes have the support of city and town officials in order to maximize efficiencies, there are several time-sensitive concerns that would aid communities in allocating funds received from recent opioid settlements. Under existing law, opioid settlement funds received by municipalities must be treated as general fund revenue, meaning that local officials cannot easily keep them in a dedicated fund. The proposed changes would provide clarity around fund expenditures and allow for greater transparency on the use of the funds, which benefits both municipal officials and advocates.

Special Education Extraordinary Relief
We also request further consideration of special education extraordinary relief funding, which was first filed as part of H. 3545 (1599-0012). The special education funding is intended to offset the impact of a decision made by the Operational Services Division last October allowing private special education schools to increase their tuition rates by 14% in fiscal 2024. The OSD decision impacts every district that places students out of district to meet their students’ educational needs. We know the House and Senate are firmly aware of this issue and its impact on school districts. We are thankful that both chambers have provided versions of this relief in previously engrossed supplemental budgets (H. 3994 and S. 2428), and we respectfully urge you to include a compromise version in the final closeout fiscal 2023 budget.

In-Person Early Voting and Vote by Mail Costs and Flexibility
Finally, we ask that you include important language and funding to support municipal implementation of the VOTES Act, including Section 21 and item 1599-8909 of H. 3545. Section 21 adds greater flexibility for the use of election funds supporting in-person early voting and vote by mail. Additionally, 1599-8909 includes $8 million for reimbursable municipal costs associated with early voting and vote by mail. While provisions allowing in-person early voting and vote by mail have allowed many more residents across Massachusetts to engage in recent elections, municipalities still incur significant administrative and staff costs. This includes impacts from keeping municipal buildings open for extended hours, hiring temporary staff, paying overtime, etc.

The work of the Legislature has demonstrated your strong commitment to a thriving state-local government partnership. We are deeply grateful for your attention to these issues and consideration of the municipal priorities outlined above.

If you have any questions regarding our comments or require additional information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or Deputy Legislative Director Jackie Lavender Bird at 617-426-7272, ext. 123, or at any time.


Adam Chapdelaine
MMA Executive Director & CEO

The Honorable Ronald J. Mariano, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen E. Spilka, President of the Senate