Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and State Government in Fiscal 2017 and Beyond (2016)

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As adopted by the members on January 23, 2016.

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 15-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 2017 and beyond:
 
In the Area of Municipal and School Aid:
• In fiscal 2017, unrestricted municipal aid should grow 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 adequately fund public safety, public works, and all basic municipal and school services while avoiding overreliance on the property tax;
 
• The full share of Lottery and gaming revenue dedicated to help pay for municipal services should be used to help fund unrestricted municipal aid;
 
• Chapter 70 school aid revenue sharing should be increased in fiscal 2017 consistent with the Commonwealth’s constitutional obligation to ensure adequate funding for all schools, including the “foundation budget” adequacy standard, as updated through the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, the “target share” equity standard, and a reasonable amount of new minimum per student aid;
 
• Full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to the Special Education Circuit Breaker Program, as provided by state law, should be maintained;
 
• Full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments to the program for payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land, as provided by state law, should be included in the fiscal 2017 budget;
 
• 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 should be included in the fiscal 2017 budget;
 
• Full funding of the Commonwealth’s obligations and commitments, as provided by state law, to reimburse cities and towns for the loss of Chapter 70 school aid that is redirected to fund commonwealth charter schools should be included in the fiscal 2017 budget;
 
• 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 should be included in the fiscal 2017 budget;
 
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 unrestricted municipal aid and Chapter 70 school aid and local contribution 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:
• Cities and towns should be granted 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;
 
• Legislation should be enacted 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; and
 
In the Area of Transparency and Unfunded Mandates
• It should be a high priority for the 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
 
In the Area of Capital Budgeting
• The governor and the Legislature should work together early in 2016 to ensure enactment of a multi-year transportation bond bill that provides at least $300 million annually for local road projects, including notice of allocations for fiscal 2017 by April 1, 2016;
 
• The governor and the Legislature should continue to make the installation of high-speed Internet access in un-served and under-served cities and towns a high priority; and
 
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.