Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
We are writing to express our deep appreciation for the many provisions in the House Ways & Means Committee budget proposal (H. 4700) that benefit and support cities and towns across the Commonwealth, and we welcome the opportunity to offer comments and insights on proposed amendments that will be before you next week, during your deliberations on the fiscal 2023 state budget.
We thank Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, and the members of the House Ways & Means Committee for their commitment to cities and towns by increasing local aid in several key education accounts, including doubling Chapter 70 minimum aid, and increasing both the charter school mitigation payments and Special Education Circuit Breaker accounts. These are extremely important investments, and demonstrate leadership and a powerful commitment to accelerating the implementation of the Student Opportunity Act.
In this letter, we are asking you to support targeted appropriation amendments to build on this progress and fund other essential accounts. Our main focus is increasing Unrestricted General Government Aid (1233-2350), which represents the critical revenue sharing partnership between state and local government. We fully appreciate that this is a unique situation for fiscal year 2023, where the preexisting calculation linking UGGA to the consensus revenue forecast falls short of fully capturing revenue sharing following two years of extraordinary state tax growth.
We all hope that the state’s level of tax growth will continue, but we understand that you need to be cautious about the future. Our concern for local governments is that if the base of UGGA is not adjusted for fiscal year 2023, and subsequent tax collections for future years are more modest, cities and towns will continue to lag behind. While the state has experienced record revenue growth, local property tax revenues are capped, and other municipal funds have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. History has shown that when local governments lag behind that in turn creates a lag on the economic recovery of the entire region.
To this end, we offer our enthusiastic support for Amendment #1195, Increasing Unrestricted Local Aid, filed by Rep. Oliveira. This amendment would raise the UGGA increase from 2.7% in the current proposal to 3.5%, which would match the percentage increase from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022. The financial impact would be an increase of $9.3 million to the UGGA account (1233-2350), and all communities would see their UGGA funding increase accordingly.
We also support Amendment #1186, offered by Rep. Jones, to transfer additional funding to UGGA if year-end surplus revenues exceed the fiscal 2022 consensus revenue estimate. In essence, this amendment would allocate unplanned surplus revenues to support cities and towns, capped at 7.3% to match the state’s fiscal 2023 revenue growth compared to the revenue base used last July when the fiscal 2022 budget was enacted.
In this letter, we are asking you to support appropriation amendments to build on the progress included in the House Ways & Means proposal, as outlined below, as well as some non-appropriation provisions key to maintaining local government operations.
Please Support These Key Appropriations and Municipal Operations Amendments:
Amendment #1195 (Increasing Unrestricted Local Aid), Amendment #1186 (Transferring Additional Surplus Revenues to UGGA) – As noted above, please support Amendment #1195, filed by Rep. Oliveira, to raise the UGGA increase from 2.7% in the current proposal to 3.5%, which would match the increase from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022. The financial impact would be an increase of $9.3 million to the UGGA account (1233-2350). Amendment #1186 would use a portion of the year-end surplus to fund UGGA, and provide an increase of up to 7.3%, but only if final fiscal 2022 revenues exceed the consensus estimate.
Amendments #767, #858, #453 (Regional School Transportation) – Please support an increase to the Regional School Transportation account (7035-0006). Three amendments address funding this essential account, which is critical to rural and smaller communities. Amendments #767 and #858, filed by Rep. Ferguson and Rep. D’Emilia, respectively, which would both fund 100% of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s fiscal 2023 projected claims at $97 million. Amendment #453, filed by Rep. LaNatra, would increase the account by $3 million over the current fiscal year amount, bringing the total to $85 million.
Amendments #398 and #856 (PILOT) – Please support Amendments #398 and #856, filed by Rep. Blais and Rep. D’Emilia, respectively, to increase Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes for state-owned land (1233-2400) by $5 million over the current fiscal year. This would bring the account to $40 million, and put the state on a path to phase-in full funding in the near future. A report by the state auditor found that full funding in fiscal 2020 would have required $45 million, demonstrating the need. This program is critically important to smaller communities with large amounts of state-owned land.
Amendment #390 (Vocational School Transportation) – Please support Amendment #390, filed by Rep. Blais, to fund the out-of-district vocational transportation account (7035-0007) at $250,000. This amount reflects level funding from fiscal 2022.
Amendment #166 (Reimbursing Mandated Election Costs for Cities and Municipalities) – Please support Amendment #166, filed by Rep. Ultrino, which would support municipalities by defraying the costs associated with mandated early voting.
Amendment #426 (Municipal Police and Fire) – Please support Amendment #426, filed by Rep. Cahill, which increases the appropriation for the Joint Labor-Management Committee (7003-0902) for municipal police and fire by $50,000, from $250,000 to $300,000. This amendment has the support of all of the management and labor representatives who serve on the JLMC.
Amendment #431 (METCO) – Please support Amendment #431, filed by Rep. Linsky, to increase funding by $1.5 million for the successful and impactful METCO program (7010-0012).
Amendment #541 (Shannon Grant) – Please support Amendment #541, filed by Rep. Madaro, to increase funding for the Shannon Grant program (8100-0111) by $663,417 to a total of $13 million. This anti-gang grant program helps cities and towns respond to and suppress gang-related activities.
Amendment #861 (Local and Regional Public Health Excellence Grants) – Please support Amendment #861, filed by Rep. Kane, which increases grant funding to local and regional boards of public health (4512-2022).
Amendment #299 (Massachusetts Municipal Building Authority Trust Fund) – Please support Amendment #299, filed by Rep. Howitt, establishing a Massachusetts Municipal Building Authority and Massachusetts Municipal Building Trust Fund. This would create a framework for a state-local partnership to address crumbling municipal and public safety buildings across the state.
Amendment #1105 (Community Preservation Act Trust Fund) – Please support Amendment #1105, filed by Rep. Domb, which directs the Comptroller to transfer $10 million to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund, prior to sending the net surplus for fiscal 2022 to the Commonwealth’s stabilization fund.
Amendment #319 (Supporting Local Online News Sources) – Please support Amendment #319, filed by Rep. Peisch, which would allow municipalities required to publish legal notices to post such notices on a community news website. This would address the challenge of meeting the legal notice requirement with fewer local news publications.
Amendment #1376 (School Transportation Pothole Account) – Please support this new line item, filed by Rep. Oliveira, to offset the extraordinary costs associated with transporting students.
Amendment #913 (Special Commission on Community Redevelopment and Land Preservation) – Please support Amendment #913, filed by Rep. Oliveira, establishing a special commission to advise on the use of vacant buildings.
Again, we would like to express our gratitude to Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, and the members of the House Ways & Means Committee for presenting a fiscal blueprint that makes important and timely investments in cities and towns across the state, particularly in the area of public education and accelerated implementation of the Student Opportunity Act. This is a critical time for Massachusetts, and local government leaders deeply appreciate your strong partnership with all 351 cities and towns. We ask you to build on the many favorable local aid investments in H. 4700 by supporting the key budget amendments detailed above. With these targeted investments, cities and towns will have the vital resources they need to build a vibrant and lasting economic recovery that benefits every corner of the state.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me, MMA Legislative Director Dave Koffman at email@example.com, or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Jackie Lavender Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Thank you very much for your support, dedication and commitment to the cities and towns of Massachusetts.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO