The legislature yesterday passed a Municipal Relief Package, which is outlined below. The package, predictably, did not contain “plan design” relief on health care for municipalities. There are some important pieces here, including the pension portion. But the most important piece has been left on the cutting room floor. The Boston Phoenix editorialized on the lack of the health care provision:
But municipal-employee unions don’t like the idea, so the legislature removed that provision before advancing the bill on Tuesday. The bill is a joke without it — which makes it a perfect piece of legislation for our laughable state government.
AN ACT RELATIVE TO MUNICIPAL RELIEF
Regionalization Incentive: This would require executive agencies to encourage and prioritize grants for cities and towns that apply jointly and more efficiently utilize the funding
Transferring Eligible Municipal Retirees into Medicare: This section will reduce benefit costs for municipalities by requiring that all eligible retired local employees enroll in Medicare as their primary source of health insurance coverage, as is already done on the state level. Currently cities and towns have the option of doing this, but a large number of cities and towns have not done so. As a result, their retirees remain in the community’s health plan at considerable and unnecessary expense to local taxpayers.
Optional Early Retirement Program: This section includes an Early Retirement Incentive program for cities and towns. This program would allow a limited number of long term municipal employees to receive early retirement benefits, while restricting the town’s ability to refill those same positions to no more than 30%, 45%, and 60% of the former total salaries over the next three years, respectively. This program would be at the option of municipalities, giving cities and towns the flexibility to determine for themselves whether this tool is appropriate for their community.
Retirement System Funding Relief: This section proposes a pension funding relief plan to help local pension systems address unprecedented asset losses in a fiscally responsible and manageable way, without the significant increases in payments that would otherwise be required. Specifically, by allowing local systems to extend their funding schedule subject to certain conditions and requires that future asset gains be used to shorten schedules, not reduce payments.
Mutual Aid Agreements: This section would allow cities and towns to join statewide mutual aid agreements to provide police, fire, emergency medical, public works, and other public safety assistance to other municipalities. This would allow cities and towns to save money on staffing and equipment while still being prepared for emergency situations.
Collective Bargaining and Regional Entities This section provides that a municipal decision to enter into an intermunicipal agreement or join a regional entity shall not be subject to collective bargaining.
Mutual Aid Agreements Sections 43 and 44 allow cities, towns, and other governmental units in Massachusetts to join statewide mutual aid agreements to provide police, fire, emergency medical, public works, and other public safety assistance to other municipalities.
Support for School District Regionalization: This section includes provisions to facilitate regionalization of school districts by allowing regional school districts to join with municipal districts in a superintendency union, and streamlining the process to allow regional school districts to access their stabilization funds.
Collective Purchasing: Another idea to help participating communities to save money, this would allow education collaboratives to leverage economies of scale by entering into bulk purchasing agreements with public entities outside our state borders. It would also give cities, towns and school departments the ability to participate in cooperative purchasing agreements with public agencies outside of Massachusetts.
Municipal Electronic Billing: This section would allow cities and towns the option to establish an e-billing program, with the approval of selectmen or the mayor; would be able to include bills for other municipal charges (water, sewer, trash, light plant) in the same envelope or e-billing as the tax bill, as authorized by by-law or ordinance; however, bills from independent water and sewer commissions may be included in the by-law or ordinance only if approved by the commission
Renewable Energy Revolving Fund and Betterment Program: This section would allow municipalities to offer a loan program to property owners for renewable energy improvements. This would give towns interested in promoting energy conservation and green energy the legal mechanism to set up a revolving fund for this purpose.
Municipal Police Training and Motor Vehicle Inspection Fee Increase: This section would require a police officer or recruit who has a municipality pay for his/her basic training to remain in the service of that municipality’s police department for a minimum number of consecutive years, determined by the secretary of public safety and security; otherwise the officer or recruit is required to reimburse the municipality for the cost of the basic training, pro-rated, based upon the proportion of required service that the officer or recruit should have served; provided that the officer’s or recruit’s failure to serve the municipality’s police department for the required period was voluntary. This section would also raise the motor vehicle inspection fee by $6, which will be distributed to cities and towns for municipal police training and community policing; however, money distributed for basic police training is contingent upon a match of not less than $1 in municipal contributions for every $1 in state funding
Snow and Ice Removal Costs: This section would allow municipalities to amortize FY10 snow and ice removal costs over FY11 and FY12 (in equal payments or more rapidly).
Establish Commission to review Local Aid Formulas This section creates a commission charged with reviewing the general unrestricted local aid formula.