As adopted by the members (last revised January 2009)
I. Policy Development
Beginning in 1987, the Annual Meeting will consider resolutions defining general policy about issues of concern to municipalities in Massachusetts. The executive director will cause these resolutions as adopted to be compiled and published as the policies of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. These policies will guide the staff, Board of Directors, and representatives of the association in their work, including actions of the Board of Directors on specific legislative proposals. In subsequent years, the members may amend or repeal part or all of the policies. The executive director and Board of Directors will establish a process for preparing resolutions for the Annual Meeting.
II. Fiscal Policies
A. State Aid and the Lottery
Although local governments depend on the state for fiscal help, it is local officials and residents who are most effective in allocating state assistance to meet local needs.
1. With local government services equal in importance and magnitude to state services but the local revenue capacity to support these services severely constrained by state law, the state has an obligation to share its revenues with cities and towns. This revenue-sharing obligation is embodied in Question 5, which was approved by the state electorate Nov. 6, 1990. The tenets of Question 5 must be honored by the governor and the General Court.
2. By statute, lottery receipts are a direct source of local revenue and are not interchangeable with state revenue-sharing distributions. Lottery receipts should not be capped or diverted for non–Lottery aid purposes.
3. State revenue-sharing and Lottery distributions should not be earmarked, but should be distributed to local governments for use at the discretion of municipalities through the appropriation process. There is greater accountability at the local level on spending decisions and local voters are best able to determine the types and levels of services needed and desired in a city or town.
4. Because the delivery of services to Massachusetts citizens requires cooperation between the state and its cities and towns, the state-local fiscal relationship should be marked by a high degree of stability and certainty. Volatility in the distribution of state revenue-sharing amounts and state grants should be eliminated and the state should make it a priority to keep its commitments to fund joint programs in areas where state and local government share a common interest.
B. New Revenue Sources
Local governments have restricted revenue sources and need new and expanded sources of funding.
1. State and local officials should investigate ways to reform the property tax and other local taxes, including property-tax relief.
2. The state needs to establish a comprehensive program to mitigate the impact on local budgets of revenue loss due to property exemptions under state law, including the exemption for state-owned land.
C. State Regulation of Local Finance
State law tends to over-regulate the financial practices of local governments.
1. Municipalities should be allowed greater flexibility in borrowing, both to meet local needs and to reflect changes in market conditions.
2. Instead of statutory lists of how local governments can raise, borrow, invest, or spend funds, the state should list specific prohibited practices and allow local flexibility in other areas.
D. Financial Information
In order to prepare balanced budgets that meet short- and long-term financial goals, local government chief executives need all available state and local revenue and expenditure information on a timely basis.
1. Expeditious and reasonable timetables should be established for collection and distribution of state and local revenue information and spending information. Cherry Sheets should be distributed in early March so that cities and towns may make their local budgets final before the beginning of the fiscal year.
III. Personnel and Labor Relations
Personnel services are the most significant cost for cities and towns, amounting to more than 65 percent of local government budgets. The most important resource in providing excellent local government services is a productive work force. Therefore, the MMA will pursue policies that enhance management discretion and containment of labor costs. At the same time, the MMA recognizes the value of employee involvement and participation and therefore supports innovations and collaboration between labor and management to improve the quality of local government services, particularly during these times of organizational change.
A. Management Rights
The overriding responsibility of elected municipal officials to the citizens of their communities requires that the law recognize and define a set of inherent management prerogatives of their key management positions that are not subject to collective bargaining and may not be restricted by any provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. Those management rights should include the right: to direct, appoint, employ and assign officers, agents and employees and to determine the standards therefor; to sanction and terminate employees for unacceptable performance or misconduct, as determined by the municipality; to award promotional positions to the most qualified candidates as determined by the municipality; to determine the levels of service needed by the community and to plan to provide those levels of service; to direct, supervise, control, and evaluate the departments, units, and programs of the municipality; to classify the various positions of the municipality; to ascribe duties and standards of productivity therefor; to develop and determine levels of staffing and training; to determine whether goods or services should be provided, leased, contracted for, or purchased on either a temporary or permanent basis; to assign and apportion overtime; and to hire part-time employees.
The exercise of these, and other management rights frequently requires the exercise of independent judgment and discretion by employees in managerial and/or supervisory positions. Individuals in those positions should not be represented by any union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or subject to state-imposed benefits or terms of employment, in order to avoid any concerns about the independence of their decisions.
B. Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining is a valuable process for allowing fair consideration of potentially conflicting interests and for exploring mutual problem solving, provided that the process recognizes the importance of continuity of services and maintains local control and autonomy. Due recognition of the importance of continuity of services requires that strikes by municipal employees, including both school and non-school employees, be prohibited and that sufficient sanctions be available to make that a meaningful prohibition. Local autonomy should be preserved and enhanced by ensuring that the final decision as to acceptance of collective bargaining agreements, both school and non-school agreements, will be at the discretion of local officials, and by the avoidance of state-imposed benefits or other terms of employment. Effective collective bargaining within a community also requires close coordination and communication among all parties responsible for bargaining. That coordination and communication requires that the financial aspects of school contracts be subject to ratification by the municipality's legislative body, and that a city or town have the option to have the municipal chief executive officer negotiate school contracts.
C. Civil Service
Thousands of local employees and hundreds of municipalities now function under a civil service system that is cumbersome, frustrating, and slow.
The Civil Service system should be eliminated for all municipal employees.
D. Injuries on the Job
Employees who have suffered legitimate on-the-job injuries should receive fair compensation through an equitable system that avoids incentives for abuse and encourages the earliest feasible return to work with or without reasonable accommodations to any existing disability. Municipal employers are encouraged to make safety of the workplace and worker-injury prevention and treatment programs a priority, and to develop occupational health and managed care and wellness programs as tools to avoid injuries and to return injured employees to productive work.
Equity in such a system requires that the level of compensation (measured as a percent of regular compensation) be equivalent; the current system is not equitable in that it provides a higher level of replacement income for public safety employees through the Injured-on-Duty (IOD) program than for employees covered by standard worker's compensation benefits. The IOD program also provides undesirable incentives to prolong absences by paying benefits which exceed the normal take-home pay of the employee for a regular work week.
All municipalities should accord the highest importance to fostering diversity in the workplace and ensuring that there is no discrimination in hiring, promotion or any other aspect of employment on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age (except in connection with any age limits on hiring and any mandatory retirement for employees in public safety positions), ancestry, children, marital status, veteran status or membership in the armed services, the receiving of public assistance, or handicap of any person alleging to be a qualified handicapped person. Municipalities should make reasonable efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities, but the determination of the essential functions of positions should be reserved to municipal officials. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination plays a valuable role in enforcing the laws against discrimination, but should develop a greater sensitivity to the burden placed on municipalities from the costs and delays associated with its proceedings and the burdensome impact of damages for alleged emotional distress.
F. Health Insurance
Health insurance is a vitally important benefit offered to full-time municipal employees and their families by every city and town in Massachusetts. In a nation with 45.7 million uninsured individuals, cities and towns are justly proud of their efforts to provide health insurance for all full-time employees who opt for coverage. However, health insurance is a very expensive benefit whose costs have been steadily rising as a percentage of municipal budgets. In addition, providing health insurance to municipal employees is governed by Chapter 32B, an outdated law that desperately needs to be modernized.
Paying for health insurance is a major financial burden for virtually every employer in America, both public and private, driven in large part by underlying medical costs that greatly exceed general inflation. In Massachusetts, cities and towns are especially burdened by a state law that requires any change to health insurance to be collectively bargained. State government has exempted itself from this requirement and has no such obligation to bargain contribution levels or plan design changes such as higher co-pays, deductibles, tiered networks and similar steps. Because of this double standard in the law, cities and towns have seen their health insurance costs increase at a faster rate than the state’s, due to the greater difficulty in making plan design or other changes. It is the strong position of the MMA that all cities and towns must have the same level of authority as the state government in decisions regarding health insurance for their employees. This underlying reform is essential in order to provide municipalities with the management authority and flexibility that is necessary to ensure that all cities and towns can continue to provide vital health insurance benefits in the most effective and affordable manner possible.
G. Binding Arbitration
Binding arbitration represents a fundamental violation of local decision-making authority. It cedes basic budgetary decision-making authority to an un-elected, unaccountable, and outside third party. The decision-making process that creates municipal budgets is a fair and equitable one with checks and balances that are an essential feature of the American political system.
Last-best-offer final and binding arbitration was a brief experiment in Massachusetts from 1973 to 1977 and applied only to public safety labor disputes. It was replaced by a similar system administrated by the Joint Labor Management Committee. The authority of the JLMC to use binding arbitration was repealed by the voters in 1980 as part of Proposition 2½.
The MMA opposes any re-instatement of binding arbitration because it would take essential spending decisions out of the hands of elected local officials and instead allow un-elected, unaccountable, and outside third party arbitrators to determine the fiscal course of cities and towns.
A secure, adequate, affordable retirement system is an essential benefit for employees and an important tool for municipal government to attract and retain good employees. The Massachusetts Contributory Retirement System was established as a defined benefit plan in 1946. It provides a safe and secure retirement for career employees, but does so at the expense of employees who are not going to make a career of public service. The system is in desperate need of reform. The system is not portable, its contribution rates vary widely between employees for the same benefit, the classification of employees is arbitrary and capricious, and it takes an unfair advantage of non-career employees. Most important, the disability system is still riddled with abuse and provides lifetime benefits to individuals who demonstrably are not disabled.
The MMA urges the Administration and the Legislature to undertake a comprehensive review and reform of the system to address these issues. Prior to the completion of the review the MMA opposes the addition of any new benefit unless and until a revenue stream is identified to pay for new benefits.
IV. Human Services
A. Community-Based Services
Local and state governments benefit from cooperation and the exchange of information concerning a wide range of human services issues that have an impact on Massachusetts residents at the local level. The term "human services" describes a wide variety of programs. There are patterns of investment in human services common to cities, towns, and counties. Most municipalities and some counties have some "core" municipal human services departments such as a Board of Health, Council on Aging, Recreation Board, Veterans Office, Youth Commission, or an Office of Human Services. Each local human services office must take into account the social service needs and resources specific to its community.
1. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will work collaboratively with the MMA and the Local Officials Human Services Council (LOHSC), as the designated human services affiliate of the MMA, to dually address the policies affecting human service delivery, and will enhance the effectiveness of local human service planning and programming through the sharing of ideas and the promotion of cooperation.
2. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will work collaboratively with the MMA and LOHSC to provide notification of any proposed changes in human services policy or regulation that may have an impact on local government and will provide opportunity to comment on the proposed changes relative to the fiscal or other impact on local government.
3. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will work collaboratively with the MMA and LOHSC to establish and maintain policies and procedures that allow a local chief executive or designee the opportunity to comment, participate in the planning processes, review, and sign-off on any initiative that will have an impact on a local community. (This provision could apply to situations like the opening and/or closing of state institutions, or the siting of housing initiatives.)
V. Joint and Regional Cooperation
The MMA encourages cities and towns to take advantage of periodic changes to the competitive nature of the insurance market by placing for competitive bid, every three to five years, municipal insurance policies and to further provide for regional solutions for protection, coverage and liability through pooled insurance programs.
1. The MMA continues its strong support for reforms to workers' compensation programs affecting municipalities through cooperative, creative, and innovative methods. The MMA is willing and able to assist in the development of such reforms that would ease the financial burden that each city and town faces.
B. Regional Solutions
Many of the problems facing municipal governments require regional and state partnership approaches to problem solving.
1. Reduce financial burdens and mandates. Municipalities should actively work with the state to revise statutory and regulatory powers of the commonwealth to reduce the financial burden placed upon municipalities that result from certain statutory and regulatory provisions.
2. Provide support. State agencies should provide local governments and regional organizations with the administrative and financial incentives to collaborate in the production and delivery of public services on a local and regional basis. Local governments are on the front line in the application for most public programs and regulations, yet regulatory and fiscal powers are increasingly concentrated with state agencies. Prior to implementing programs, the state should examine whether the function can be located in or implemented by a local or regional government.
3. Regional Forms of Organizations: The Massachusetts Municipal Association supports the pursuit of legislation to transfer the administration and funding for the county houses of corrections to the commonwealth; supports the pursuit of legislation that would provide for the orderly transfer of administration, ownership and funding of the district, probate, and superior court facilities to the commonwealth; supports the pursuit of legislation that would provide for the orderly phase out of county government within the commonwealth; supports the pursuit of legislation that would establish alternate regional governance models for adoption by cities and towns, to include forms for regional planning agencies, councils of government, regional service authorities and elected regional councils, as well as incorporation of regional transportation authorities and mosquito control districts into said regional governance service model; and the Massachusetts Municipal Association further stipulates that the funding for these correctional, court, and/or regional governance models shall not be made from the county property tax, except where necessary to retire existing county liabilities. Funding for said regional service models shall be established on a fee-paid or contract basis to participating municipalities, funding for RTAs, RPAs, and mosquito control districts shall continue under the current legislative formulations. Prior to the abolition of each county, the municipalities within shall have the opportunity to establish an alternative regional governing unit, if desired, provided that any alternative form of regional governance proposed for any county be approved by referendum vote within the county. Pension obligations should be assumed by the state for all former county employees, and the providing of adequate state funding to cover the costs of such liabilities as to not pass these costs on to local communities. Compensation for property seized should return to the local region either through a regional governance unit or to the cities and towns. Where there is no regional governance unit established to succeed a county, the disposition of county assets which are not necessary for the operation of jails, registrars and trial courts should be decided by a local commission appointed by each county advisory board.
4. Local review on state regulatory overrides. When state regulatory overrides of local control occur, there should be a procedure for local review and comment, particularly on regional need and economic support.
C. Reinventing Government
Cities and towns should be empowered to review government functions.
1. The MMA encourages local governments to develop and implement efficient and effective methods to deliver goods and services to their residents through the use of modern management tools such as Total Quality Management, performance measurement systems, community policing, administrative codes and procedures, and innovative budget techniques.
2. The MMA should encourage the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to develop and implement a municipal code to strengthen and delineate the roles and prerogatives of local government and the method by which state policies are developed.
VI. Land Use and the Environment
A. Environmental Regulation and Federal and State Mandates
Effective environmental regulation is necessary to protect the precious natural resources of the Commonwealth. However, environmental regulations that are too rigid, overly bureaucratic, and promulgated without concern for cost often fail to achieve the desired result of protecting the environment. Environmental mandates, like other mandates, still impose new costs on cities and towns and therefore must be paid for by the state.
1. The MMA supports the promulgation and implementation of environmental regulations that stress environmental protection over process, stress local solutions to local problems, based on common sense solutions to environmental problems, and are cost-effective.
2. The MMA supports a review by state and federal environmental agencies of all existing or pending environmental regulations to ensure that the regulations meet the three criteria listed in point one. Wherever possible, the review should include a cost/benefit analysis of the regulations.
3. The MMA strongly supports the strict application of the anti-mandate provisions of Proposition 2 1/2 to environmental regulations. The state must pay for any environmental regulation, promulgated after January 1, 1981, no matter how well-intentioned or necessary to protect the environment, that imposes new, additional costs on cities and towns.
4. The MMA strongly supports efforts to eliminate new, unfunded environmental mandates from the federal government.
B. Water Quality
Massachusetts water quality is often threatened by contamination, destruction of wetlands, inappropriate land use, leaking underground storage tanks, failing commercial and residential septic systems and leachate from landfills.
1. Water quality projects, that are often the result of court intervention or newly enacted federal or state mandates, are profoundly capital intensive. It is unfair to expect that the costs of these projects be borne exclusively by local property taxpayers and rate payers. Therefore, it is the policy of the MMA to seek, whenever possible, increased federal and state financial assistance in the form grants, including sewer extension grants, and/or low interest or zero interest loan programs to offset the costs of these projects.
2. The MMA encourages cities and towns to promote water conservation through a variety of methods including, but not limited to, the adoption of water rates that reflect the true costs of water production, public education on water conservation and implementation of leak-detection programs.
3. The MMA supports corrective changes at the local level in zoning laws and health regulations to strengthen water-supply planning protection efforts.
4. The MMA supports decreased use of sodium-based deicing products and encourages alternative deicing methods by state and local governments in order to diminish the threat of pollution to ground water supplies.
5. The MMA supports the continuation of the sewer rate relief program that provides assistance to cities and towns to help reduce the cost to rate payers for federal or state mandated clean-up orders.
6. The MMA supports state regulation of underground septic systems (Title V) as a minimum standard for maintaining drinking water quality. But cities and towns must retain their traditional home rule prerogatives to impose more restrictive septic system regulations due to local soil and hydrological conditions. The MMA supports the state grant program to assist low income homeowners in repairing and replacing non-performing septic systems.
7. The MMA supports the state grant program for the removal and replacement of underground storage tanks.
8. The MMA supports the state program to classify unlined landfills as to their threat to the environment. The MMA supports a state grant program for the closure of unlined landfills.
9. The MMA supports the Clean Lakes and Ponds program which provides technical assistance and grants to cities and towns.
10. The MMA supports efforts to provide additional measures to Department of Environmental Protection regulations to protect the rivers and streams of the Commonwealth.
C. Water Supply
Although Massachusetts is currently blessed with abundant surface water and groundwater supplies, maintaining and expanding the prosperity of the commonwealth into the future will require even greater diligence in protecting existing water supplies and adding new water supplies.
1. The MMA supports cooperative efforts between state and local officials and between neighboring communities to protect, expand, and, wherever possible, to coordinate the provision of groundwater and surface water supplies. In particular, the MMA supports state efforts to increase inter-municipality cooperation through the watershed initiative program.
2. The MMA supports technical assistance from the state to assist cities and towns in Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping and aquifer delineation.
3. The MMA supports a grant program to assist communities in long-term, regional planning for water supply and use.
D. Solid Waste
Municipalities must dispose of solid waste in an environmentally sound and cost effective manner.
1. The MMA endorses the following hierarchy for solid waste disposal methods. First, reduce the volume of solid waste that must be disposed. Second, recycle whatever can be recycled in a cost-effective manner. Third, burn what cannot be reduced or recycled. Fourth, bury in a properly lined and managed landfill what cannot be reduced, recycled or burned.
2. In implementing the solid waste management hierarchy, the state should not discard current, practical solutions for the safe disposal of solid waste, such as incinerators and landfilling, until other technologies are reliably developed and practical for cities and towns to use to dispose of municipal solid waste.
3. The MMA encourages every city and town to become involved in cost-effective regional or local recycling programs. However, the association unequivocally rejects the imposition of any unfunded, state mandated recycling program. Any state mandated recycling program must be covered by the anti-mandate provisions of Proposition 2 1/2.
4. The MMA urges the state to increase its efforts to create stable and reliable markets for recycled materials.
5. The MMA encourages all of its members to adopt local ordinances or bylaws to purchase recycled products.
E. Land Use and Siting
1. The MMA supports a local-option land-transfer tax that would fund the purchase of open space and land, the construction of affordable housing, or the development of solutions to local environmental problems. No community should be penalized in the local-aid formula for having adopted a local land-transfer tax.
2. The MMA supports the adoption of a comprehensive statute for the siting of needed but unpopular facilities. The statutes should respect the long tradition of home rule in Massachusetts and provide built-in protections for the environment, including environmental-impact statements, avoidance of environmentally sensitive areas, and investigation of alternative sites.
VII. Roads and Transportation
Local revenue limits and high costs will continue to prevent local governments from funding road repair and maintenance with property tax revenues.
1. The MMA supports state funding of local road improvements that is distributed in advance, adjusted to reflect inflation, and distributed according to a defined formula that includes miles of roadway.
2. The MMA opposes any effort to consolidate Cherry Sheet receipts that eliminates state highway assistance as a separately identified line item. Similarly, the MMA supports the use of dedicated transportation revenues, such as the gas tax, solely for the use of transportation expenditures, maintenance, and construction projects on all roads. State Aid Highway Funds (Chapter 90) are to be used for construction, reconstruction, and surface treatments, including resurfacing and the application of oil and stone, and all other improvements incidental to such projects including local roads. The MMA supports a state funding program that allows local governments to determine their own infrastructure improvement need.
3. The MMA supports 100 percent eligibility for state funding for all local-government engineering, land acquisition and construction projects on all roads. The MMA supports a state funding program that allows local governments to determine their own infrastructure improvement needs.
4. The MMA encourages the Department of Transportation to prepare a performance-based schedule for the repair and reconstruction of dysfunctional state bridges, and to provide adequate funding sources to meet the schedule.
5. The MMA continues to support additional state programs designed to solve specific community problems, such as the Small Town Road Assistance Program, Public Works Economic Development, Salt Shed, and Small Bridge Program. These programs should augment basic state highway aid (Chapter 90) to every community.
B. Regional Transportation
All metropolitan areas have traffic and parking problems.
1. The MMA supports the promotion of network and regional transit services, including bus, commuter rail, aviation, and boat service. Local officials should be involved in the planning stages of changes to regional transportation systems and must in turn take some responsibility to encourage communities that host regional transit services to provide adequate commuter parking facilities. The MMA strongly urges the state government to work closely with local governments to ensure adequate parking facilities to serve transit, rail, and commuter boat service.
2. Assessments for transit systems should be equitable and based on clearly defined criteria involving factors such as use.
3. The MMA supports the need to reduce congestion and passenger delays at Logan International Airport by appropriate means, including adjusting landing and take-off fees to discourage low-capacity flights during peak-demand periods.
C. Weight Enforcement
Overweight trucks damage local and state roads.
1. The state and federal governments must adequately fund the necessary training, personnel, and equipment to enforce the regulations and laws regarding vehicle weights and truck safety.
2. The MMA supports a strong team approach to truck safety, enforcement, and prosecution involving police departments, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the State Police, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
3. Local and State Police departments should vigorously prosecute and fine violators for excessive speeding, defective equipment, improper driver's licenses, bridge weight violations, overweight vehicles, and hazardous materials violations. The fine revenues should be returned to municipalities to be used for enforcement.
D. State-Local Cooperation
Local governments and regional and state agencies need to cooperate and communicate with each other to develop and maintain adequate transportation facilities, including roads, rail, buses, airports, and water transportation that enhances mobility and economic growth while not degrading our environment.
1. The Massachusetts Highway Department should apply its policies and practices uniformly and make them available at all of its district offices across the state, consistent with local needs.
2. State agencies should communicate with each other, work with regional and county planning agencies, and with local governments about any major construction project during its planning stages. At least two public meetings and semiannual reports should be part of the planning and construction process.
3. No major state project shall be undertaken without the opportunity for written comment by each affected municipality.
4. Plans for state transit, commuter boat service, and highway projects should be based on accurate and current traffic studies, and made available to all affected communities.
5. Local governments should have the authority and responsibility for traffic and transportation planning and decision-making.
6. The state, working with federal and local officials, should develop road and bridge construction standards that complement local land uses.
7. Traffic noise is becoming a greater threat to the quality of life in our communities. Current laws do not adequately address the problem of traffic noise. The MMA should work with state and local officials to develop easily enforceable standards to reduce traffic noise.
8. The MMA should monitor and respond to initiatives to restructure the electric industry to promote competition and economic efficiency, and expand opportunities that would benefit customers. The outcome of restructuring and the options proposed may hold significant benefits, or negative impacts, for the commonwealth's cities and towns. All municipalities will be affected as consumers of electricity, and municipalities having municipal electric companies will be affected. Municipalities should have the same benefit of competition that other customers have under a competitive system, and the existing authority of municipal utility companies to operate or form should not be abridged or severely impacted. The MMA's Board of Directors should adopt guidelines on restructuring.
9. The MMA suggests that all its member communities, in cooperation with utility contractors, establish street-cut permitting policies and fee schedules for street openings.
As the primary provider of elementary and secondary education at the local level, cities and towns should participate in the development by the state executive and Legislature of any education policies and programs.
A. Helping Children Learn
Local officials believe that the learning experiences provided to children in local schools need regular review, improvement, and change. All communities need to improve their schools over time, with those in socially and economically distressed areas needing special help from the state in such areas as programs for very young children not yet in school. Local school systems must be accountable to parents of children in the system and the local officials and taxpayers in the city or town supporting the schools for the quality of education.
1. Local school districts and the communities they serve should set goals for school district and student achievement, with guidance and support from the state. Goals should reflect the knowledge and skills that children will need to attain in school in order to live and prosper in a modern society and economy.
2. School districts and communities should develop and implement educational programs needed to achieve school district and student achievement goals, with state guidance and support. These should include statewide curriculum guidelines that engage and challenge students.
3. School districts and communities should develop ways to measure achievement, with state guidance and support. These should include statewide student testing and minimum graduation standards. Assessment results, both descriptive and analytical, should be regularly and broadly distributed to parents of school children and to local officials and taxpayers in order to ensure school system accountability.
B. Paying for Education in the 1990s and Beyond
While education outcomes are not solely determined by the level of funding, after more than a decade of limits on the property tax and deep local aid cuts in recent years, cities and towns need an adequate stream of additional revenues to improve and expand education programs for local school children. Schools in economically distressed cities and towns have been especially hurt by limitations and cuts in local revenues. Communities that have maintained or increased their commitment to education during the recent fiscal crisis should not be punished by a state takeover of local school financing. In addition, any new education funding plan should avoid pitting schools against the broad range of other essential local services, such as police and fire protection, libraries, and road maintenance, that together make up the fabric of a community.
1. Education reform should be paid for within the context of a state tax revenue sharing program that recognizes that local voters are better able to set local spending priorities than are state officials, and that over the past several years local voters and local officials have routinely treated schools better than the state has. All cities and towns should receive an adequate and predictable share of state tax collections to be spent at local discretion to support and improve local services, including public education.
2. In order to improve the equity of the current system of funding schools, cities and towns that are unable to fund an adequate level of education for local children from local revenues should be eligible for special assistance from the state to ensure that a minimum level of education is provided.
3. Any joint state-local school funding program must contain clear and inviolable provisions to ensure that the state will keep its funding commitment to the education of children. A strict accountability system needs to be established with local officials, taxpayers and parents of school children able to go to court to force the state to honor any funding promise. There should be no unfunded state mandates.
4. Any revenue stream for public education should be stable and predictable, should not lead to an over-reliance on the property tax, and should not be at the expense of other local aid accounts.
5. The state should develop and fund targeted programs, such as early childhood education, to ensure that children from socially and economically distressed communities arrive at school ready to learn.
C. A New Framework for School District Governance and Decision-Making
1. Local school officials and teachers, administrators, and other school employees should be directly and clearly accountable to the parents of children in the local school system and to the local officials and taxpayers in the city or town supporting the schools.
2. A direct and clear system of accountability should be established for school district and student achievement and for school finance.
3. On school finance and spending matters, including salary and benefit contracts, school officials and employees should be directly and clearly answerable to the parents of children in the local school system and the local officials and homeowners and businesses that pay the taxes that support the local schools. Indirect and diffuse systems of accountability should be avoided.
D. New Expectations and Opportunities for Teachers and Administrators
1. Teachers and administrators should be directly and clearly accountable for their professional conduct and competency to the parents of children in the local school system and to the local officials and taxpayers in the city or town supporting the schools. An improved system of accountability should include evaluations of all teachers, administrators, and other education professionals, and a streamlined due process system for terminating incompetent teachers and school personnel.
2. Teachers and administrators should be expected to improve their knowledge and skills and should be provided with opportunities and funding for professional development. A merit pay system, such as has already been implemented in some municipalities, should be developed to acknowledge and reward teaching excellence.
IX. Public Safety
The primary purpose for any government at any level is to provide for the safety and security for its citizens. For the 1990s, we recognize that the challenge for effective municipal leadership is in forging and promoting enduring problem-solving partnerships between community members, public safety officials, and local government that improve the quality of life in our communities.
A. Communication Technology
Communication is critically important to effectively providing police and fire services to the citizens of the commonwealth. On a statewide basis the communication technology for our police and fire services is woefully inadequate.
1. The MMA urges state government to adopt a comprehensive radio and telephone communication program to assist municipal police and fire forces in upgrading and improving current communication systems.
2. The MMA calls for the prompt implementation of a statewide 800 megahertz frequency communication system that would provide public safety personnel with a reliable, 24-hour-a-day communication system.
3. The MMA supports a grant program to assist cities and towns in the purchase and operation of state-of-the-art mobile data communication systems. Such systems would have instant access to statewide warrant file, default file, and domestic assault data. In addition, such systems would have interface with the court system, Probation Department, and Corrections Department. The use of the data available to local police and fire departments through the mobile data communication systems would be strictly regulated by state statute with guidelines, regulations and protocols issued by the attorney general.
4. The MMA urges the state to conduct a comprehensive communication technology assessment to determine the technology needs of municipal public safety forces and to assist public safety officials in deciding the appropriate communication technology for individual communities.
B. Public Safety Buildings Construction Program
Across the state, police and fire stations are in deplorable condition. Built for another era, in some instances, another century, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of the police and fire stations are in need of repair or replacement.
1. The MMA supports the creation of a Public Safety Assistance Bureau (PSAB) to assist communities in financing capital construction of police and fire stations.
C. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a serious social and criminal justice problem that has a significant impact on cities and towns in a variety of ways, including families in general and, more specifically, emergency shelters, schools, law enforcement agencies, and the courts. Domestic violence can no longer be viewed as a private family matter but rather in the context of other crimes requiring prevention and prosecution.
1. The MMA supports the passage of federal and state legislation that will provide technical and financial assistance to cities and towns to develop and implement innovative programs to address and reduce the problem of domestic violence.
2. The MMA urges its members to create partnerships with existing nonprofit social service agencies to fight domestic violence and to assist these agencies in providing services to the victims of domestic violence.
3. The MMA encourages its members to provide training for its police departments in the proper management of domestic violence cases.
D. Career Criminal Program
The overwhelming proportion of violent crimes are committed by a very small number of "career criminals." For this small number of criminals, rehabilitation is no longer appropriate. Rather, they deserve special treatment from the criminal justice system and lengthy incarceration.
1. The MMA supports the creation of a "career criminal program" for the small number of criminals who have been convicted of three violent felonies. If, after three convictions, an individual is charged with a fourth violent felony, the individual would be placed in the career criminal program. Such a program would require that a trial be held within a reasonable period of time after arraignment. If convicted, the individual would be sentenced for the crime for which he was charged, plus a term of 25 years, with no possibility of parole.
2. In order to implement the career criminal program, MMA supports providing sufficient funds to the various agencies of the criminal justice system – police, prosecutors, the correctional system, etc. – to ensure the swift and sure operation of the program.
In order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal public safety personnel and equipment, the MMA urges cities and towns to regionalize public safety services wherever appropriate.
1. The MMA encourages its members to use joint public safety headquarters and communication facilities wherever possible.
2. The MMA supports comprehensive sharing of public safety capital equipment on a regional basis.
3. The MMA encourages its members to adopt public safety mutual aid programs.
F. Community Policing
Community policing has much to offer modern society, although it is not a cure-all for problems inside and outside the criminal justice system.
1. The MMA endorses the concept of community policing, which is based on the belief that contemporary public safety challenges require police to provide full service policing, proactive and reactive, by involving the community directly as partners in the process of identifying, prioritizing, and solving problems.
2. The MMA urges the state to continue to expand the existing Community Policing Grant Program with special emphasis on seeking community involvement and in getting police department-wide commitments to change existing policies and procedures.
X. Economic Development
Economic development is vital to the commonwealth and its municipalities. The goals of economic development are to enhance the ability of residents of cities and towns to improve their economic well-being, to assist municipalities in their efforts to strengthen their economies, especially by improving their ability to adapt to change and encourage appropriate growth, and to retain and increase productive investment and jobs.
Local governments play a key role in maintaining and developing local economies. They provide the framework for economic activity by building and maintaining infrastructure systems and by providing a system of public education. Economic development feels the impact of local government activities, including land use policies, zoning, the work of industrial and economic development commissions, local tourism councils, and local government's coordinated efforts with the private sector. Local governments also foster economic development by providing the resources, including technical and financial assistance, necessary to retain, encourage, and expand business.
Local governments have the primary public sector role in shaping local economic development. To fulfill this role, municipalities need appropriate authority and resources. In addition, local governments as chief advocates for and key players in economic development must be included in all economic development planning and decision-making at the state level.
A. Intergovernmental Cooperation
1. The state should coordinate the development of a comprehensive statewide strategy for business retention and economic growth that includes appropriate roles and responsibilities for federal, state, and local governments. It should recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each region and be mindful of the issues faced by border communities and cities and towns affected by the closing of significant employers, such as military bases. The plan should promote economic development on a regional basis. In addition, the plan should promote business diversification, as well as coordinated state and local land-use policies. It should be developed with the assistance of municipal officials and should be integrated with local economic development plans. The plan should recognize that public and private higher educational institutions are a key component in the foundation of the state's economy, as a large employer, a provider of resources, and a stimulator of research and development.
2. The state should provide leadership to local governments and should have continued commitment to services that promote local revitalization and economic development. It should expand programs to develop municipal economic policy planning capacity for all local governments.
3. The state should develop a cooperative approach to remove barriers to economic development by rapidly resolving procedural aspects of administrative and procedural barriers concerning the environment, transportation, and other infrastructure areas. The state must give special attention to providing information and expertise to 21E problem sites as well as finance mechanisms to address their clean up. The state should remove administrative barriers by streamlining regulatory and administrative processes.
4. The cost of doing business is a crucial component of achieving economic stability and growth. The commonwealth should recognize the connection between the cost of doing business and should provide a legislative and regulatory framework that takes this into account.
5. Local officials have an active and ongoing interest in the condition of local economies. Local officials should consider the economic dimension of all local government actions, including local policy development, planning, and decision-making. Local officials should work closely with businesses, chambers of commerce, and other organizations.
6. The MMA encourages the sharing of information among communities and will establish a network of local officials to serve as a resource for municipal leaders who wish to receive input and guidance on developing or strengthening their own local economic development initiatives. This assistance will be provided through the sharing of successful economic development programs, plans, techniques, and ideas through periodic seminars, workshops, and publications. The MMA recognizes that the state provides significant economic development assistance to cities and towns, and will work in a complementary role, helping local officials to gain access to government agencies and other organizations, and facilitating communication among local officials.
1. The state and federal governments should make available to all cities and towns a wide variety of fiscal tools for use in strengthening and expanding local economies. At the local level, these tools should include options for general and targeted property tax expenditures and tax relief without state interference. Cities and towns should work closely with local banks and other financial institutions to ensure that adequate funds are available for business retention and both should be cognizant of the provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).
2. The state and federal governments should provide adequate and reliable sources of funds for local infrastructure projects that support local economies, including a fixed share of motor fuel excise collections for local roads projects and funds for water and sewerage system projects. Local infrastructure projects should be an important part of the state's capital spending plan. Cities and towns should prepare capital spending plans that include economic development components.
3. The state and federal governments should make available to all cities and towns a wide variety of methods of financing local infrastructure projects, such as tax increment financing, that strengthen or expand local economies. The state should work closely with local economic development officials to ensure that businesses locating or expanding in a city or town have access to credit from state agencies when available.
4. State and federal tax policy and tax law changes should take into consideration their effect on local economies and services. Local officials and the MMA should regularly review the effect of property taxes and other local taxes and excises, as well as fees and charges, on local economies.
5. The underlying fiscal health of cities and towns is a crucial part of achieving economic stability and growth. The commonwealth should recognize the connection between the stability of municipal finances and the potential to retain and attract employers, and provide a stable, rational revenue sharing program for cities and towns for this reason.
It is the goal of cities and towns in Massachusetts to be progressive contributors to environmentally safe and financially sound energy policies and practices in this country through the process of review and siting of energy-producing facilities and procurement and management of energy resources. Local government has a long-standing interest in encouraging clean and renewable energy resources and reducing energy consumption.
A. The state has an important role in the development of a comprehensive energy policy for Massachusetts that includes convening all entities with energy responsibilities, including local government, for policy development purposes and coordination of programs and activities. Cities and towns have an important role reflecting the needs of local economies and residents and as major energy consumers.
B. The authority to review and approve the siting of energy facilities is a fundamental local government responsibility in Massachusetts that should not be pre-empted by state or federal entities. [See MMA policy VI, E.] The state has an important role to play in helping to resolve siting disputes.
C. The state and federal governments should provide assistance to cities and towns, including the development of model bylaws, ordinances and codes for siting and the encouragement of municipal and regional approaches to energy procurement and management.