Dear Senator,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association wishes to express our deep appreciation to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues and the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee for the much-appreciated local government provisions in the year-end fiscal 2019 supplemental budget bill (S. 2378), which will be debated on Thursday, October 24. We extend our thanks for the many important investments in essential municipal and school programs that will be before you for consideration and approval.

The surge in tax collections at the end of fiscal 2019, at $1.1 billion above the forecast, and the increase in Lottery revenues by more than $100 million over the original projection for the year, are good-news developments for the Commonwealth. While much of this extra revenue growth is not expected to continue over the long term, this influx of revenue provides an opportunity to add to the state’s stabilization fund, cover key fiscal 2019 shortfalls, and provide a measure of one-time funding for vitally important capital projects. These are prudent actions that we strongly support.

There are many items in S. 2378 to provide substantial assistance to cities, towns and school districts, and all are appreciated.

Municipal Capital Programs

We deeply appreciate the appropriation of $60 million for grants to cities and towns for the construction and improvement of municipal ways (1595-6386). This funding would be a very welcome supplement to the Chapter 90 program, and would exceed the support given to municipal roads in the fiscal 2018 year-end budget bill, as well as the amount recommended by the Governor to close out fiscal 2019.

In addition, we appreciate the $8.4 million appropriation to help cities and towns address local drinking water contamination by Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), including water supply testing and grants to cover treatment (2250-2002). We also strongly support the targeted $20 million transfer to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to help remediate PFAS contamination (1595-1200), and we support Amendment #112, which would establish a PFAS task force. We applaud the $35 million transfer to the Clean Water Trust (1595-1205) to help finance improvements to local water systems. This additional funding for local capital projects will help move local governments closer to a state of good repair for local infrastructure and address much-needed environmental investments, while lowering taxpayer costs in the future.

Municipal and School Aid Programs

We support the appropriation of $2.0 million for the special education circuit breaker program (7061-0012). This would bring fiscal 2019 to full funding for the state’s share of this important program. We also support the $5.2 million appropriation for student transportation in regional school districts (7035-0006), which would bring state funding closer to the full funding mark. Each of these investments demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to sharing its resources with cities and towns. We support Amendment #15, which would provide $2.0 million (7035-0008) to help cities and towns with the costs of transporting homeless students. This is the same amount appropriated by the House.

We wish to express our very strong support for Amendment #55, which would provide $17.5 million this year (7061-9010) to help mitigate the harsh financial impact of charter school assessments on local public schools. Fixing charter school finance is a vital priority for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts, especially those lower-income districts that have been disproportionately impacted by the seriously flawed method of financing charter schools. Amendment #55 would close a portion of the major shortfall in the charter school reimbursement account in fiscal 2019, and would match the appropriation adopted by the House for this key priority.

Further, we support the $4 million appropriation for the Municipal Regionalization Reserve (1599-0026). This funding would support an enormously useful program to help cities and towns develop best practices in vital areas, such as cyber security. We also support the $5 million appropriation (2511-0100) to help cover the cost of spraying to reduce the risk of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a timely appropriation recognizing unexpected costs at the local level.

Please do not hesitate to have your office contact us at any time if you have any questions or need additional information regarding any of these key investment priorities.

We ask you to support S. 2378 and Amendments #112, #15 and #55, and thank you very much for your support, dedication and commitment to the cities and towns of Massachusetts.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO