Entries by Will Kauppila

Income and Education Levels in Gateway Cities Well Below State Average as Debate over Chapter 70 Aid Formula Heats Up

Data from Pioneer’s online transparency toolset, MassAnalysis.com, shows that the Gateway Cities have some of the lowest per-capita incomes in the Commonwealth, according to the most recent data from 2017. Education and income levels are intrinsically tied, and not surprisingly, high school graduation rates in the Gateway Cities lag well behind the rest of the state. As shown in the table below, Barnstable, Quincy, Peabody, Attleboro, and Methuen are the only Gateway Cities that do not rank in the bottom third of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts in per capita income for 2017. Lawrence had the fifth lowest in the state, while Springfield and New Bedford had the eighth and tenth lowest, respectively. The average per capita income in the […]

2,098 Mass. VA Employees Made $100,000 or More in 2017

According to the online transparency tool OpentheBooks, there were 7,816 Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Massachusetts in 2017. Remarkably, 2,098 of these, made six-figure incomes. Fifty-one administrators and doctors made more than $300,000 and 364 made more than $200,000. Salaries may be sky high, but there have been many complaints about the quality of care at two VA hospitals in particular. As the Boston Globe, Lowell Sun, and ABC News have reported, VA Hospitals in Bedford and Northampton have been embattled by recent allegations of unexpected patient deaths, serious employee misconduct, whistleblower intimidation, and unsafe conditions. In 2017, 35 employees made over $200,000 and 369 made over $100,000 at the Edith Nourse Rodgers Veterans Memorial Hospital in Bedford, while […]

Gateway Cities Face Educational Spending Challenges

As the Boston Globe recently reported, Gateway Cities Brockton and Worcester are mulling a lawsuit against the Commonwealth. They cite the methodology the state uses to address funding aid inequity for public schools in poorer municipalities as insufficient to meet their students’ needs. The article also demonstrated the wide gap between public school resources available to Brockton and wealthy towns like Weston which are able to fund their school systems through higher property wealth. Data from Pioneer’s online transparency toolset, MassAnalysis.com, shows that the average single family tax bill in 2016 was $3,264 in Brockton, and $3,643 in Worcester. Weston’s was almost 5 times higher at $17,832. Using data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Pioneer […]

Public Works Expenditures Across All 26 Gateway Cities

Using MassAnalysis.com, a free government transparency tool provided by Pioneer Institute, with a few clicks, a report was generated to compare 2016 public works expenditures across all 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts. The results are demonstrated in the chart below: The findings were unexpected. Peabody is the 15th largest city, but had both the highest public works expenditures with costs amounting to $23,199,119 in total and $443 on a per capita basis. These costs are almost twice the amount of Everett, the city that has next highest costs per capita, which amount to $261. Worcester and Quincy had the 2nd and 3rd highest costs, $19,739,457 and $18,160,826, respectively. However, this can be explained by the size of the cities, Worcester […]

The Link Between Police Spending and Crime in Gateway Cities

Massachusetts “Gateway Cities” were defined in a 2007 Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC) and Brookings Institution report as midsize cities throughout the Commonwealth that historically had strong economies centered around manufacturing, but have since struggled with unemployment, crime rates, educational performance, and property values as a result of shifting economic trends. The original eleven Gateway cities were Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester. Section 3A of Chapter 23A of the General Laws of Massachusetts defines a Gateway City as, “a municipality with a population greater than 35,000 and less than 250,000 with a median household income below the Commonwealth’s average and a rate of educational attainment of a bachelor’s degree […]

2016 MBTA Bus Maintenance Costs up 27% Since 2011

Last spring, Pioneer reported on the MBTA’s out of control 2015 bus maintenance costs, which were the highest of any transit agency in the nation at $44.30 per hour of bus operation. A small consolation prize, according to MBTAanalysis.com, is that New York City’s MTA Bus Company surpassed the MBTA in 2016 by rising from $42.27 in 2015 to $44.94 per hour of bus operation. As the graph below demonstrates, the MBTA still came in a close second at $44.64 per hour of bus operation in 2016. Pioneer’s study last spring “2015 MBTA Bus Maintenance Costs Were Nation’s Highest,” identified five peer transit agencies (Miami-Dade Transit, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Maryland Transit Administration, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, and Metropolitan […]

MBTA’s Green Line Extension is Getting Back on Track

According to Pioneer’s MBTAanalysis.com, the MBTA’s Green Line had over 64 million recorded passenger trips in 2016, the most of any light rail transit service in the US. Extending the Green Line’s service area into Somerville and Medford would vastly improve accessibility for two densely populated cities that are underserved by rail transit. Two key developments in the second half of 2017 have given the MBTA’s Green Line Extension (GLX) project some much needed momentum. As Pioneer previously reported, cost estimates had ballooned to over $3 billion due to a lack of due diligence in the bidding process with previous contractor White-Skanska-Kiewit, and $1 billion in federal grant money for the project appeared to be in jeopardy at the end […]

Town Residents Clash with Developers over Chapter 40B Housing Law

M.G.L. Chapter 40B, Sections 20 through 23, (commonly referred as Chapter 40B) is a Massachusetts law that has been on the books since 1969. The law permits developers to override local zoning laws, and move forward with construction when they include subsidized units in their developments in municipalities where less than 10 percent of available housing is considered affordable. The statute’s goal is to make housing more readily available for lower-income families. However, as prices in the conventional housing market have steadily increased, other challenges have emerged. Chapter 40B’s original intent was to spur the development of multifamily and affordable housing units in suburban and rural parts of the state. Once a municipality can claim at least 10 percent of […]

Could Bus Rapid Transit Be the Future of Public Transportation in Boston?

As the Greater Boston Area continues to grow, it is important to plan future public transportation infrastructure to keep up with increased demand. In determining its vision for transit in the future, the MBTA has given careful consideration to new forms of transit that meet the demands of today’s commuters. One mode of transit that’s been especially prominent in this conversation is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In 2013 the MBTA began working with officials from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) to explore the possibility of bringing high standard BRT to Boston. BRT can be defined as a large-scale, fully integrated metro bus transit system. The MBTA helped form the BRT Study Group, which sought to determine where […]

Newly Proposed Theater Tax Credit All-Too Familiar

As Pioneer reported earlier this summer, there have been questions surrounding the viability of incentives provided by the Massachusetts film tax credit since its inception in 2006. It was adopted to attract motion picture production companies by offering them generous tax breaks for filming on location around the state. In exchange, the companies are expected to create industry jobs for Massachusetts residents, and spur local investment and growth. While there has certainly been a recent uptick in big-budget film productions, much of the revenue produced is going out of state, and taxpayers are not seeing a reasonable return on their dollars. A recent Boston Globe editorial also echoed the pitfalls of the film credit, supporting the conclusion that it has […]

Update on the State of the Green Line Extension

The idea for the Green Line Extension (GLX) has been around for years, and its potential benefits have led many to call it a critical economic and environmental infrastructure project. So, when the first phase of construction began in 2012, it was met with great excitement. Fast forward to 2016, and much of that initial enthusiasm has been curbed with skepticism. Construction has been painfully slow, and project cost estimates escalated as high as $3 billion (now at $2.3 billion). Yet, despite concerns over the MBTA’s capacity to manage an operation of this scale and scope, the project is still very much alive. In May, a new, independent interim project management team commissioned by the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board […]

Behind the Glitz & Glamour: Are Massachusetts Film Tax Credits worth the Investment?

Massachusetts currently offers 14 different tax credits available to qualifying entities. Each incentive is subject to different awards and issuance processes based on the discretion of the state agency that oversees issuance. A tax credit is refundable for an entity who earns more in tax credits than it owes in taxes, which means that Massachusetts will pay back the difference with a refund check. It is transferable for an entity whose credits are valued higher than its tax liabilities, meaning that it can sell any surplus credits to another taxpayer that owes taxes. These tax credits are given to privately owned businesses and individuals who have either tangibly created new job opportunities for Massachusetts residents, or have had other positive […]