Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is grateful for your support for local government. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues as you look to make important investments from both the fiscal year 2021 revenue surplus and the federal American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State Recovery Funds.
We appreciate the work done by the Senate Ways and Means Committee in creating S. 2564, An Act relative to immediate COVID recovery needs. Through significant investments in vital areas, including local and regional boards of health, mental and behavioral health, cybersecurity, water and sewer infrastructure, environmental infrastructure, and housing programs, it is clear that the Senate is committed to partnering with municipalities to ensure a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, this partnership will be absolutely necessary to maximize and leverage the impact of local initiatives and ensure timely spending consistent with the needs of communities all across the Commonwealth.
In this letter, we are respectfully asking you to support targeted amendments to build on this strong proposal to further address the timely and critical needs of the cities and towns of Massachusetts:
Chapter 90 Funding (Amendment #496) – We ask you to support Amendment #496, filed by Senator Hinds, which would provide a one-time cash transfer of $50 million to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund (1595-6386) for the critically important Chapter 90 local roads and bridges program.
As you know, municipal and state ARPA funds provided through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund are largely not available for transportation-related investments. This cash appropriation through the unprecedented state surplus would help address a vital long-term need that is essential to our recovery and growth. Municipalities spend far less on road maintenance and repairs than the estimated $600 million per year that is needed to get our municipal road infrastructure system to a state good repair. With a tightly capped property tax, and federal ARPA funds that cannot be adequately leveraged for roads and bridges, communities do not have the resources to close this massive $400 million gap.
While the current federal funding for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and federal funding from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are impressive, they do not directly address the massive funding gap for locally owned roads. IIJA funds will mostly go to federal and state highways and transit systems, with a smaller amount targeted to large projects on state-numbered roads and very expensive and complex local hotspots. This means that the burden of maintaining, repairing, and rebuilding the 30,000 miles of local roads in Massachusetts would continue to fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
Water and Sewer Infrastructure Funding (Amendment #343) – Please support amendment #343, filed by Senator Eldridge, to increase the bottom line of water and sewer infrastructure investments (1599-2032) by $50 million, from $175 million to $225 million. This amendment would increase the appropriation for critical water and sewer infrastructure projects, a clearly intended use of ARPA Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Municipalities are urgently awaiting confirmation that the state plans to invest in these expensive and important priorities, primarily in order to accordingly allocate local recovery funds through ARPA. All 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts can identify priority water and sewer infrastructure projects their community desperately needs but cannot finance alone.
Environmental Infrastructure Funding (Amendment #344) – Please support increasing the bottom line of environmental infrastructure investments (1599-2031) by $175 million, from $125 million to $300 million, by supporting Amendment #344, filed by Senator Gobi. Our municipalities are struggling to deal with aging infrastructure at the same time as increased severe weather events bring more stormwater, flooding and drought. And as more and more communities identify PFAS contaminants in their public drinking water supplies, and PFAS is detected in other sources such as rivers and turf fields, funds for water and environmental treatment will be put to quick and beneficial use. Municipalities across the Commonwealth collectively have thousands of projects which have been thoughtfully planned and are shovel-ready.
Charter School Reimbursements (Amendment #428) – We ask you to support Amendment #428, filed by Senator Chang-Diaz, to amend the fiscal year 2022 budget to increase the Charter School Reimbursement line item (7061-9010) by $9.4 million. This will ensure that the state’s obligation under the Student Opportunity Act to reimburse each district at 75% is being met. The increase in assessments levied on local school districts to pay tuition to charter schools is imposing a major and growing financial burden on our communities. Rising charter school assessments are forcing local public schools to cut programs and services to make up the difference. Because the great majority of K-12 students attend local public schools, this means that underfunding the charter school reimbursement program has a directly negative impact on schoolchildren across the state, particularly in economically challenged communities.
School Ventilation Improvements (Amendment #469) – We ask you to support Amendment #469, filed by Senator Tarr, which would create a reserve fund for grants to public school districts to address inequitable school facilities. The investment of $100 million would provide improved ventilation and indoor air quality to support healthy learning environments in districts with schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately affected by the public health emergency.
Municipal Broadband Debt Relief (Amendment #186) – We ask you to support Amendment #186, filed by Senator Hinds and Senator Comerford, which increases a reserve fund to close the digital divide (1599-2045) by $50 million to provide grants to municipalities for debt relief incurred during the construction of broadband networks.
This is a critical time for cities and towns. We know that you and your colleagues continue to be outstanding partners for communities across the Commonwealth, and we look forward to working with you to recover from the pandemic and thrive over the coming years. The Commonwealth has a unique opportunity with federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as the significant fiscal year 2021 revenue surplus, to make historic investments in infrastructure to improve water quality across the state, prepare municipalities for the current impacts and inevitable effects of climate change, improve local roads and bridges, address the state’s housing crisis, and ensure funding of critical state commitments.
Thank you for your continued support for cities and towns. If you have any questions regarding our comments or require additional information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Jackie Lavender Bird at 617-426-7272, ext. 123, or email@example.com at any time.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO