MMA members endorse 2 policy resolutions

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MMA Vice President Rob Dolan speaks at the MMA 2017 Annual Business MeetingThe MMA membership on Jan. 21 overwhelmingly endorsed two policy resolutions, on the important issues of local aid and zoning and land use.
 
The resolutions send an important message to state leaders about municipal priorities and will guide the MMA’s work in the year ahead.
 
The first – Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and State Government in Fiscal 2018 and Beyond – was developed by the MMA’s Fiscal Policy Committee. It includes priorities voiced by local officials from all parts of the state on municipal and school aid, local-option revenues, unfunded mandates, and many other areas where state and local governments intersect.
 
The resolution points out that “adequate and stable” state revenue sharing through the Cherry Sheet, targeted appropriations and grant programs is absolutely necessary to ensure healthy and strong cities and towns. Cities and towns, the resolution points out, have become increasingly over-reliant on the tightly capped property tax to fund local budgets and deliver essential services.
 
The resolution calls on the state to fulfill its funding commitments on items such as special education, charter school reimbursements, school transportation, out-of-district vocational education, the transportation of homeless students, and PILOT.
 
The resolution calls on the state to move quickly to phase in the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum adequate spending standards for special education and health insurance for school employees and retirees, and to fully recognize the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner (ELL) and other students who would benefit from more intensive services.
 
The resolution also requests a $300 million per year Chapter 90 local road and bridge program, indexed to grow with inflation, and support for new flexibility to adopt local-option taxes and other revenues.
 
The resolution calls on the governor and Legislature to comprehensively reform laws and practices governing post-employment benefits for public employees.
 
The second resolution – Resolution Supporting a Strong and Productive Role for Cities and Towns to Promote Effective Planning and Land Use Policies and Practices – was proposed by the MMA Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration.
 
The resolution lays out a number of policy tools that would be helpful to communities looking to enhance their zoning laws, without establishing potentially harmful mandates or top-down, ill-fitting rules for all of the Commonwealth’s 351 unique cities and towns.
 
Highlights of this resolution include the following:
 
• Opposition to any proposals by the Legislature or the governor that contain a preemption of municipal control over zoning and land use.
 
• Support for clear statutory authority for the enactment of municipal inclusionary zoning requirements to help meet affordable housing needs.
 
• Support for clear statutory authority for municipal site plan review and impact fees to mitigate the cost of new developments on communities.
 
• Encouragement of state support of local participation in local-option initiatives meant to provide incentives for development, including chapters 43D, 40R and 40S, and establishment of local-option Workforce Housing Special Tax Assessment zones.
 
• Support for a land-use dispute avoidance process, with the aim of resolving zoning board differences before formal permit approval or denial.
 
• Stipulation that zoning or land use legislation on the issue of whether to change the quantum of the vote required by any local body, or allowing consolidated permitting, should be local option, as these should be tools for communities to consider and not mandates that override local control.
 
• Support for state-provided technical assistance and dedicated planning and zoning funds in any zoning reform proposed by the Legislature.
 
The resolutions were developed over the summer and fall by MMA policy committees comprising local officials from across the state, and they were endorsed in November by the MMA Board of Directors.
 
Some 300 officials representing their individual municipalities voted on the resolutions at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting in Boston.
 
While discussion was welcomed during the Annual Business Meeting, the policy committees that drafted the resolutions also solicited member comments for a four-week period prior to the meeting.
 
The full resolutions can be found at www.mma.org under Advocacy.