By Michael P. Norton
State House News Service
Property tax revenues across Massachusetts rose by 4.1 percent in the last fiscal year, the largest annual increase since fiscal 2010, but cities and towns continue to struggle to pay for employees and services due to unfunded fixed costs, according to a new report.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) concluded in its annual municipal financial data report that Bay State cities and towns are “stuck in an era of modest rebound.” Overall, total municipal revenues grew by 3.8 percent.
“The pursuit of the 5.2 percent average annual revenue growth we witnessed between 1982 and 2009 continues to become more unattainable in the short term,” MTF President Eileen McAnneny said in a statement.
The average salary for a municipal employee grew by 3.7 percent in the first half of fiscal 2015, compared to a 3.3 percent increase in average wages for private sector workers in Massachusetts, according to the report. Total spending on municipal wages grew by 4.5 percent because of the addition of 2,000 employees.
Cities and towns face a collective $45 billion in unfunded pension and retiree health-care liabilities, a burden that’s forcing local officials to make difficult decisions about spending priorities.
“Municipalities’ growing reliance on and limited control over property taxes, along with the unlikelihood of dramatic increases to state aid and local receipts, signals that municipal budgets must increasingly align with the slower growth rate of recent years,” the report said.
Local non-property tax receipts such as motor vehicle excise, hotel and meals taxes, building permits and service charges grew by $220 million in fiscal 2015. The 5.1 percent increase in those revenues was the largest leap since fiscal 2008.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who has emphasized his support for cities and towns sharing in the state’s revenue growth, is scheduled next month to unveil his second state budget proposal, including proposed local aid levels for fiscal 2017 which starts on July 1, 2016.
Cities and towns use local aid to supplement property taxes, the two main revenue sources for municipal budgets. Property taxes across Massachusetts totaled $14.6 billion in fiscal 2015, an increase of $579 million over fiscal 2014.
Last year, when we did the ballot question the Boston Globe rarely covered our effort to repeal automatic gas taxes. I think I am being generous with my description . Now we are trying to prohibit tax dollars for the Olympics. Once again the Globe is not on the side of taxpayers, but rather the side of big contractors and the politically connected.
Next Thursday they are hosting a debate on the Olympics. We are NOT being included!
Our organization collected over 146,000 signatures to repeal the gas tax. Despite being outspent 31 to 1, we defeated Beacon Hill and their powerful special interest groups 53 to 47%!
We have formally filed with OCPF and the Attorney General’s office. And yet, the Globe doesn’t invite us to participate.
We know why! They are in the tank for the Olympics. This debate is going to be an infomercial for the Olympics not a debate on how to protect the taxpayers!
Are you as outraged as me?
We can no longer silently take this Globe abuse!
Please join me in calling the Globe at 617-929-2000 to demand that we are included in the debate!
Please join me in emailing the Globe managing editor Christine Chinlund at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enough is enough!
Co-Chairman of Tank Taxes for Olympics
MEET & GREET
The WRTC will host a meet & greet for all candidates for municipal office on Saturday, April 11, 2015. The gathering will take place at the J. V. Fletcher Library main meeting room, lower level, beginning at 11:30 am, concluding by 12:30 p.m. The public is welcome.
Candidates will talk one-on-one with members and the public. Meet your Board of Selectmen candidate, Mark Kost and School Committee candidates, Avery Adam, Terry Ryan, Christopher Sanders and Pranav Mulpur. Planning Board incumbent, Dennis Galvin, will also answer your questions.
The municipal election is Tuesday, May 5th. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
In addition to election of municipal officers, the ballot will ask the following:
“Shall the Town of Westford be allowed to exempt from the Provisions of Proposition 2 and 1⁄2, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to design and construct a new Center Fire Station on the town-owned parcel of land on Boston Road, north of Blakes Hill Road, including equipment and furnishings and all other costs incidental and related thereto?”