Resolution Ensuring a Strong Partnership Between Cities and Towns and the Commonwealth in Fiscal 2015 and Beyond (2014)

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As adopted by the members on January 25, 2014.

Whereas, the residents and businesses of Massachusetts expect and deserve high-quality public services delivered by their local governments, and rely on those essential services to support and raise their families, build economic security, and live safely; 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 infrastructure assets that communities provide; and

Whereas, the 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, it is imperative that cities and towns receive an adequate share of state revenues 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;

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 2015 and beyond:
 
In the Area of Municipal and School Aid:
 
• In fiscal 2015, 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 2015 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 Commonwealth should reexamine the adequacy and scope of the “foundation budget” to make sure that Chapter 70 accounts for the full cost of educating students;

• 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, 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 reimbursements and other municipal and school aid programs;
 
In the Area of Local Infrastructure Assistance:
 
• The Governor and Legislature should approve bond authorizations and a state capital spending plan that supports essential local road and bridge maintenance, repairs and improvements, water and environmentally related projects, and other infrastructure needs vital to public health and safety and to the state’s economic growth. This should include a multi-year transportation bond bill with at least $300 million in annual Chapter 90 local road fund authorizations, indexed to grow annually with inflation, with 100 percent of those funds released to cities and towns by the Governor in a timely manner each year, and passage of an environmental bond bill with at least $200 million annually to fund water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements;
 
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;

• To ensure orderly and efficient planning and construction at the local level, and full use of the construction season to complete projects and avoid costly delays, Chapter 90 authorization notices reflecting 100 percent of the available funding should be released by the Governor by March 1; 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.