a woman speaking into a computer camera with a presentation board behind her.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito speaks to 500 local leaders from across the state during the virtual MMA Annual Meeting.

Speaking to 500 local leaders from across the state this morning during the virtual MMA Annual Meeting, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced that the fiscal 2023 state budget the administration plans to file next week proposes to increase unrestricted local aid by $31.5 million, or 2.7%.

The increase would match the consensus state revenue growth forecast announced last week, but the MMA is pointing out that the forecast fails to account for record-breaking tax collections in fiscal 2021 and so far in fiscal 2022.

“Unfortunately, the local aid funding in the administration’s fiscal 2023 budget is too low,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “State tax revenue growth is through the roof — 22% higher than original projections — but aid to cities and towns would remain almost flat under this proposal, with just a 2.7% increase.”

“We appreciate learning about Unrestricted General Government Aid, but hope it’s a starting point,” said MMA President and Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “State revenue has grown at record levels the past two years, but municipalities haven’t seen that growth. As cities and towns continue to provide critical services, we hope that surplus state revenue can be shared via local aid.”

Beckwith noted that cities and towns, under tightly capped property taxes, “rely on state revenue sharing to pay for vital services that people depend on every day. Municipal officials across the state look forward to working with the Legislature to bring local aid up to the levels needed to support strong communities.”

Given the strong relationship between the administration and cities and towns, Beckwith told Polito that he looked forward to continuing the conversation about revenue sharing.

Polito said the administration has kept its commitment to track UGGA to the consensus revenue estimate in order to help local leaders with their budget process.

“Building in a level of certainty and predictability was key,” she said.

She did not preview other key budget items, such as Chapter 70 education aid.

Polito has addressed local leaders at every MMA Annual Meeting since she and Gov. Charlie Baker took office in January 2015. Speaking to the gathering for her last time as lieutenant governor, Polito reflected on the accomplishments of the past seven years and the strengthened partnership between state and local government under the Baker-Polito administration — a partnership that paid huge dividends as the two levels of government worked closely together to battle and recover from the COVID pandemic over the past two years.

Polito serves as the administration’s liaison to municipalities and has visited all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts at least once. During the pandemic, she held 40 regular conference calls with local officials — often on a weekly basis — soliciting their feedback about the challenges at the local level, and then seeking to address those concerns, sometimes in the form of executive orders that temporarily expanded rules related to open meetings, elections and outdoor dining.

Polito highlighted a wide range of initiatives from the past seven years, beginning with the 1,000-plus municipal best practices implemented as a result of the Community Compact Cabinet that she championed. These local efforts include a new regional economic development planner in the rural Hill Towns in western Massachusetts, a regional stormwater management effort in the Cape and Islands region, a bond rating upgrade resulting from financial management best practices in Topsfield, a regional information technology initiative led by Danvers, a climate action plan in Acton, and a municipal succession plan in Marlborough.

“These are incredible stories, but they’re your stories,” she said. “You’ve embraced these best practices. … You continue to innovate and evolve.”

Polito also ticked off the results from numerous, targeted grant initiatives — for information technology, broadband, brownfields, coastal communities, and infrastructure programs such as Complete Streets and the Municipal Small Bridge Program.

She announced the opening of the application period for the year-old Community One Stop for Growth program, a single application portal and review process for a range of community development grant programs, such as MassWorks, Housing Choice, Massachusetts Downtown Initiative, MassDevelopment, and the new Collaborative Workspace Program and Commonwealth Places. Fiscal 2023 applications are due by May 2, and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is available to help local officials with their proposals. The Expression of Interest period opened last month.

The lieutenant governor gave a “shout out” to Sean Cronin, the senior deputy commissioner at the Division of Local Services, a former local official who is highly regarded by municipal officials across the state.

“He has redefined what the Division of Local Services is all about,” she said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience on municipal affairs, and he has literally taken it to heart to help you succeed in your communities.”

Polito also issued “a call to service” to bring new people into the ranks of local government.

“You have chosen to do these jobs in your city halls and your town halls,” she said. “Municipal government service is important, it is meaningful, it is satisfying, and it is critical to the success of this Commonwealth.”

As she travels the state, Polito said she can feel the pride that local officials have for their communities, as she does for her home town of Shrewsbury.

“I just want to say on behalf of the governor and our entire administration how proud we are here in the Commonwealth that we have such dedicated, incredibly talented and committed local officials,” she said.

“It has been an incredible opportunity to be your partner,” she said, getting choked up near the end of her 25-minute address. “I want to thank you for your friendship.

“Keep up your great work,” she said. “I look forward to seeing you over the course of this next year and finishing strong.”

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