Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and State Government in Fiscal 2016 and Beyond (2015)

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As adopted by the members on January 24, 2015.
 
Whereas, the residents and businesses of Massachusetts expect and deserve high-quality public services delivered by their local governments, and rely on those services to support and raise their families, build economic security, and live safely; and
 
Whereas, the continuing fiscal health of local government will rely on adequate, sustainable and predicable revenues to support local services and capital programs; and
 
Whereas, the prosperity, and economic and social well-being of the residents and businesses of the Commonwealth are directly related to the fiscal health of cities and towns and the quality of municipal services and roads and buildings that communities provide; and
 
Whereas, cities and towns are more reliant on the tightly capped property tax to fund local budgets than any time in the past 30 years, and this overreliance on the property tax, coupled with unavoidable growth in basic local costs and future obligations, has limited the ability of cities and towns to respond to new challenges and opportunities; and
 
Whereas, the local government share of the cost of schools and public education under Chapter 70 has grown to a 10-year high, and the state share has dropped steadily even as costs have grown due to special education and other mandated obligations; and
 
Whereas, the Governor and the Legislature have a long history of working collaboratively with city and town officials to constructively solve major public policy challenges, particularly since 1980, the year that Proposition 2½ was enacted by the voters; and
 
Whereas, to reduce today’s overreliance on the regressive property tax and ensure that municipalities have the fiscal capacity to deliver the high-quality services that are essential to support local economies, families, and businesses in every corner of the Commonwealth, it is imperative that cities and towns receive an adequate share of state revenues, have an effective municipal tax system, and receive protection from excessive state and federal mandates;
 
Therefore it is hereby resolved that the members of the Massachusetts Municipal Association support the following essential policy positions to ensure a strong partnership between cities and towns and the Commonwealth in fiscal year 2016 and beyond:
 
In the Area of Municipal and School Aid:
• In fiscal 2016, the Governor and the Legislature should recognize that unrestricted municipal aid is fundamental to local budgets and should grow each year at least at the same rate as the growth in state tax collections, and be distributed without earmarks, conditions or restrictions to all cities and towns, so that local officials and residents can use local aid to adequately fund public safety, public works, and all basic municipal and school services while reducing their current overreliance on the property tax;
 
• The state Lottery was established expressly as a source of local funds to pay for essential municipal services, and thus cities and towns should receive the full distribution of Lottery proceeds, including all projected and actual growth;
 
• Chapter 70 school aid revenue sharing should be increased in fiscal 2016 consistent with the state’s constitutional obligation to ensure adequate new funding for all schools including the “foundation budget” adequacy and “target share” equity standards adopted in 2007, and a reasonable amount of new minimum per student aid;
 
• The Foundation Budget Review Commission should continue its examination of the “foundation budget” to make sure that Chapter 70 accounts for the full cost of educating students, and should include in its scope of work a review of the calculation of local contribution and school aid amounts, and adopt recommendations to increase the state’s share of the “foundation budget” from the current 42 percent level up to 50 percent;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should also maintain full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to the Special Education Circuit Breaker Program;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should also provide full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to the program for payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should also provide full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to reimburse the costs of regional school transportation, regular school transportation, out-of-district vocational education and the transportation of homeless students under the McKinney-Vento unfunded mandate;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should also provide full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to reimburse for the loss of Chapter 70 aid that is redirected to fund charter schools;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should also provide full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to Chapter 40S “smart growth” reimbursements, regional and municipal libraries, anti-gang grants, innovation and regionalization grants and other effective municipal and school aid programs;
 
In the Area of Timely Notice of Local Aid for Good Planning and Implementation:
• To ensure orderly and efficient financial planning at the local level and implementation of balanced and adequate local operating and capital budgets, the Governor and the Legislature should reach early agreement on revenue sharing amounts so that a consensus local aid resolution can be approved and reliable Cherry Sheets can be released by March 1;
 
In the Area of Local Taxing Authority and Other Revenues:
• The Governor and the Legislature should provide cities and towns with new local option flexibility to adopt local taxes and other revenues to help pay for municipal and school services and the construction and maintenance of local capital projects;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should enact legislation to provide cities and towns with local option authority to develop local rules for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes by owners of tax-exempt property;
 
• The Governor and the Legislature should undertake a complete review of the efficacy of all state-set exemptions from local taxes.
 
In the Area of Transparency and Unfunded Mandates:
• It should be a high priority for the new Governor and Legislature to avoid unfunded mandates imposed by state law, regulation or other action on cities and towns and to fully fund current mandates or allow the requirement to be implemented at local option;
 
• The Governor should require state agencies to prepare and publish municipal and school district fiscal impact statements for all new state regulations, amendments to state regulations, proposed agency guidelines, Executive Branch legislative recommendations filed with the Legislature, and acceptance of federal grants and all other actions, in a manner similar to Executive Order 145; and
 
 • The House and Senate should adopt legislative rules to require municipal and school district fiscal impact statements for bills reported from the Committees on Ways and Means and other legislative committees.
 
It is further resolved that a copy of this resolution shall be provided to the Governor and members of the General Court of the Commonwealth.