From the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) with respect to the Senate taking up the state budget next week. 0
The Senate has already announced some increases in the budget as was proposed by the Governor and House. I especially hope that the legislature votes to continue remote municipal meetings, at least through 2023, and to eventually make them permanent.
|Senate to Begin FY23 State Budget Debate on Tuesday, 5/24 |
Lawmakers Will Decide All Municipal and School Amendments Next Week
Please Thank your Senators for Increases to UGGA, Charter School Mitigation Payments, PILOT, and Other Key Priorities and Ask for Their Support to Build on Impressive Investments
May 19, 2022
On Tuesday, May 24, the Senate is scheduled to start debating its version of the fiscal 2023 state budget (S. 4). During their deliberations, Senate members will consider more than 1,100 amendments, including many issues important to municipalities and school districts. Debate is expected to conclude by the end of next week. It is critically important that you connect with your Senators as soon as possible and ask them to support and co-sponsor key budget amendments to support municipalities.
When you talk with your legislators, please thank them for the many strong investments in the Senate Ways & Means budget, including doubling the increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, doubling Chapter 70 minimum aid to $60 per student, fully funding the Student Opportunity Act, accelerating funding to fully implement the Student Opportunity Act’s charter school reimbursements a full year ahead of schedule, and increasing PILOT payments by 29%.
The MMA has sent a detailed letter to all Senators, advocating on all major local government amendments.
Please click here to download MMA’s letter as a PDF
A copy of the Senate Ways & Means budget (S. 4) and all proposed amendments can be found on the Legislature’s website:
Please review the MMA’s Senate budget letter and call your Senators as soon as possible to let them know how these amendments would impact your community. This is the best time to influence their support for the issues and amendments that matter most. Please thank them for their important investments and encourage support for amendments that would further aid municipalities.
This is a quick reference to some of the many amendments highlighted in the MMA’s letter to all Senate members:
Regional School Transportation 100% Reimbursement (Amendment #647) – Please ask your Senators to support an increase to the Regional School Transportation account (7035-0006), which is critical to rural and smaller communities. Amendment #647, would fund 100% of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s fiscal 2023 projected claims, at $97 million.
Remote Meeting Extensions (Amendment #1114) – Please ask your Senators to support Amendment #1114, to extend provisions allowing for remote participation in open public meetings, as well as remote notarization, and remote town meetings, among others, from July 15, 2022, to December 15, 2023. Massachusetts is in the middle of another rise in COVID transmissions, and extending the option for remote meetings will provide resiliency for government operations during a time of ongoing uncertainty and public health concern. This is a highly time-sensitive measure, and it makes perfect sense to include it in legislation that will get to the Governor’s Desk before the current extension expires on July 15.
Rural School Aid and Regionalization Grant Program (Amendments #743, #704) – Please ask your Senators to support funding the Rural School Aid account (7010-0005) at $20 million, providing rural school assistance grants, with priority given to proposals that support schools and districts that have experienced significant enrollment losses, and Amendment #704, which provides $500,000 for school district regionalization grants to regional school districts, or school districts considering forming a regional school district or regionalizing services.
Early Voting Reimbursement (Amendment #127) – Please ask your Senators to support an appropriation to reimburse municipalities for the costs of implementing early voting for state elections. Amendment #127 includes a $6 million appropriation to fund this state mandate.
Local Opt-In for Permanent Outdoor Dining (Amendments #332) – Please ask your Senators to support this amendment to give municipalities the option to permanently extend outdoor dining options. Amendment #332 would allow restaurants to apply for local approval to expand outdoor table service.
Chapter 70 Minimum Aid (Amendments #630, 631) – The MMA deeply appreciates the Senate Ways & Means proposal to double per-pupil minimum aid to $60 per student. This was real progress for the 135 districts that are minimum-aid-only. As you know, the MMA has consistently advocated for $100 per-pupil minimum aid, and thus we certainly support consideration of Amendments #630 and #631, which would increase Chapter 70 minimum aid to $75 per pupil and $100 per pupil, respectively. Please talk to your Senators about minimum aid.
Community Preservation Act Surplus Funding (Amendment #834) – Please ask your Senators to support Amendment #834, which directs the Comptroller to transfer $20 million to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund prior to sending the net surplus for fiscal 2022 to the Commonwealth’s stabilization fund. The number of CPA communities has reached 187, and this amendment would increase the state’s match from approximately 35% to 43%, about the same state match percentage as last year.
Flexibility in Municipal Broadband Spending (Amendment #856) – Please ask your Senators to support Amendment #856, which would allow funds appropriated for closing the digital divide to be granted to municipalities seeking relief from debt incurred for the construction of broadband networks. These communities were forced to step in when the private carriers ignored their regions and left their households and businesses behind in the broadband buildout, adding costly burdens on local taxpayers.
Shannon Grants (Amendments #942, #951) – Please ask your Senators to support Amendment #942 and Amendment #951, to increase funding for the Shannon Grant program (8100-0111). This anti-gang grant program helps cities and towns respond to and suppress gang-related activities.
Finally, the MMA has very strong concerns regarding Amendment #810, relative to retiree cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs. The amendment would authorize local and regional pension boards to award a COLA adjustment of up to 5.9% to retirees in fiscal 2023, above the current 3% cap. This would very likely increase the local unfunded pension liability, and drive up costs for taxpayers. Most communities in the state participate in regional pension systems, and do not have direct decision-making authority regarding adoption of a higher COLA, and we are aware of no system that has incorporated higher COLAs into their unfunded pension liability calculations. Adoption of a higher COLA, even if limited to one year, would permanently increase the pension obligations for all participating communities, requiring increased annual appropriations to fund the cost. Please reach out to your Senators to share what the financial impact would be to your municipality.
If you have any questions regarding any of these amendments, please contact MMA Legislative Director Dave Koffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Jackie Lavender Bird at email@example.com.
Please Call Your Senators Today to Thank Them for the Municipal and School Funding in the Senator Ways & Means Budget, and Ask Them to Build on This Progress by Supporting Key Amendments for Cities and Towns.
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