Resolution Opposing Current and Future Unfunded Local Mandates (2010)

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As adopted by the members on January 23, 2010.

Whereas, the cities and towns of Massachusetts provide a wide range of essential services for all the citizens of the Commonwealth, including fire, police, ambulance and other public protection services, the education of nearly 1 million schoolchildren, the operation of free public libraries, and the construction and maintenance of local roads and bridges and other public facilities; and

Whereas, the economic recession and the enduring impact on government revenues have resulted in budget shortfalls and challenges at both the state and local levels; and

Whereas, the state has further imposed requirements applicable to all cities and towns of Massachusetts without any appropriation notwithstanding this fiscal crisis and include, but are not limited to, the measures contained in this Resolution; and

Whereas, the Legislature and governor have recently imposed such a requirement on all cities and towns pursuant to the Ethics Reform Act whereby all municipal employees, including consultants and those rendering volunteer services, must complete an online training on the state’s conflict-of-interest law without appropriating any money to absorb the administrative and overtime costs associated thereto; and

Whereas, the Legislature and governor have recently imposed such a requirement on all cities and towns pursuant to “Jackie’s Law,” whereby a local permitting authority must attend to and immediately shut down all work on any unattended or noncompliant trench excavation on both public and private property without appropriation to absorb the costs incurred thereto; and

Whereas, state agencies have imposed strict water resource protection regulations, based on questionable science that has not been fully explained to municipal water suppliers, that have negatively impacted economic growth at a time when cities and towns are seeking to attract new businesses; and further that these same state agencies have sought to require new and burdensome storm water regulations upon our cities and towns, without providing for the economic hardship this will no doubt incur; and

Whereas, the state subjects all cities and towns to the state’s prevailing wage law, whereby such wages are established in the private sector, because of inherent ambiguity in the law, resulting in artificially higher wage rates, unnecessarily augmenting costs for capital construction projects for cities and towns during these grim fiscal times without appropriation to absorb those costs incurred thereto; and

Whereas, the state arbitrarily requires that all cities and towns with a population in excess of 12,000 hire a full-time veteran’s agent; and

Whereas, special education costs have grown 36 percent from fiscal 2002 to fiscal 2007 and out-of-district tuition expenditures over that same time have grown by 62 percent; and, further, local school district enrollments have grown steadily over that same time by 15 percent; and

Whereas, the MMA recognizes the Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) program has historically offset the effects of the reduction of state aid to cities and towns, the recent decrease in assessed values is unfair and hampers the ability of cities and towns to provide needed services for their citizens. The current methodology for formulating an accurate value, along with an onerous appeal process continues to be problematic; and

Whereas, the reduction of transportation funding by the Commonwealth specifically for regional and vocational school systems statewide coupled with the reduction for special needs students has created a hardship that we respectfully ask be restored; and

Whereas, cities and towns support and advocate for strong ethical government, strong and appropriate trench safety programs, clean and safe drinking water and high-quality storm water, payment of appropriate wages for public construction work, full provision of benefits to veterans of the Armed Forces, and appropriate and fair levels of special education services to students of the Commonwealth – however, cities and towns cannot continue to absorb these and additional mandates and the corresponding workload imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without compensation, reimbursement, or other relief from the Commonwealth, no matter how worthy the causes;

Therefore it is hereby resolved that

The cities and towns of Massachusetts call on the Legislature, governor and the state’s administrative agencies to refrain from imposing any further unfunded mandates and requirements on cities and towns, as said mandates harm municipal budgets, adversely impact municipal service delivery, and increase reliance on the property tax; and

In the event that any such legislation or regulation is considered, the Legislature shall be required to provide a fiscal note included as part of any such proposal that clearly explains the costs imposed on municipal governments as a result of such legislation or regulation, including, but not limited to, the requisite staff necessary to administer or implement said legislation; and

In the event there is a cost identified in said fiscal note, that the Legislature refrain from enacting such a legislative proposal until such time that an appropriation satisfying said amount be provided for; and

The administration and Legislature fully fund both PILOT and regional school transportation accounts; and

It is further resolved that a copy of this resolution shall be forwarded to the Senate and the House of Representatives and to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.