MassAnalysis: What are the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita?

Massachusetts municipalities generate the bulk of their revenue from local taxes, primarily property taxes. Tax revenue is spent on a variety of community needs including: Education Road and bridge construction Public safety Sewers and water In 2016, the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita had all been within the top 20 towns since 2000, according to MassAnalysis.  The towns with the highest local taxes per capita remained steady over the previous 16 years. All had less than a 20 percent increase. The amount of revenue local municipalities have to generate largely depends on how much state aid they receive. Overall, the ten towns with the highest local income taxes per capita receive very little state aid. These […]

MBTA Struggles with Commuter Rail Ridership Count

Accurate ridership calculations are critical for public transportation planning as they are a key factor in prioritizing projects. MBTA ridership statistics help determine the optimal allocation of capital among lines and trains as well as projecting capacity requirements for station platforms, waiting areas, and parking facilities.  Further, ridership patterns on existing lines can be used to predict probable patterns on proposed service extensions. The commuter rail falls far short in obtaining sufficient ridership data needed for highly calibrated project planning. Unlike subway and bus services that are operated directly by the MBTA, the commuter rail system lacks the faregates or fareboxes that, under ideal circumstances, can count passengers. The conductors on each commuter rail train must collect fares and inspect […]

MBTA’s Bus Program Driving in the Wrong Direction

According to Pioneer Institute’s, the MBTA’s bus program has the second largest ridership of all MBTA modes of transportation trailing only the heavy rail system. However, in recent years ridership has begun to decline while operating expenses have risen.  From 2015 to 2017 unlinked passenger bus trips decreased by 13.3%. This was a significant shift as ridership had increased by 22.1% from 2009 to 2015. Further, total operating expenses continued to increase despite the falling ridership. Since 2015, when ridership began to decrease significantly, bus operating expenses increased by 7.1%. The expenses show no signs of slowing, as they grew by 46.4% between 2007 and 2017, increasing every year in that span. This rise led to the total operating […]

How Do Massachusetts’s State Pensions Compare with Their Peers?

For those who have kept up with Pioneer’s work on pensions, it’s clear that Massachusetts’s public retirement systems are troubled. However, readers still may wonder how these systems compare to those in other states.  Unfortunately, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the Commonwealth’s state-run pensions are underperforming relative to other states. This is especially concerning given that, as a whole, public pension systems nationwide are considerably underfunded. Using data from 2017 — “the most recent year for which comprehensive data were available for all 50 states” — the report found that the average funded ratio of state-run pensions was 69.1%. At just 59.9% in 2017, the funded ratio of Massachusetts was almost 10 percentage points below the […]

No Clear Correlation Between Fare Revenue and Ridership

In recent weeks, many MBTA riders have expressed frustration about the T’s recent fare hike. In fact, some riders are volunteering to stand on platforms and lead a conversation about what riders can do to roll back the hike. However, the T is unlikely to budge. Even when ridership declines for a period, fare revenue continues to climb. The last three fare hikes occurred in 2012, 2014, and 2016. While all three led to a decrease in unlinked passenger trips the following year, they generated an increase in fare revenue. In fact, fare revenue increased every year from 2007-2017, with the exception of 2010. Further, the largest increase in fare revenue actually came in a year in which ridership declined. […]

The Chancellor at this University Makes about 18.5 Times what an Average Employee at this Same University Makes… 

According to MassOpenBooks, the average annual pay for UMass Medical School Employees is $57,746. But as highlighted in the chart below, Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins makes $1,069,752.  According to USA Today, the income that qualifies a Massachusetts resident to be included in the top 1% is $582,774.  When looking at MassOpenBooks 2018 Highest Paid Employees under Higher Education, four out of the six highest-paid employees earning more than $582,774 annually are all from UMass Medical School. TITLE NAME BASE PAY OTHER PAY TOTAL PAY Chancellor and SVP Health Services Michael Collins $742,777 $326,975 $1,069,752 Executive Deputy Chancellor Provost and Dean Terence Flotte $722,495 $224,042 $946,537 Executive VP Innovation and Bus Development  James Glasheen  $477,327 $193,941 $671,268 Executive Vice Chancellor, […]

Did Justice Prevail? Questions Surrounding Correctional Officers and Budgetary Allocation within the Suffolk County Sheriff Department and Others

According to MassOpenBooks 2018 statistics, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is the 18th highest department by average pay of all employees from 126 departments listed (excluding authorities) in the state. It has 1,135 employees who earn a total of $85,059,220.  While the total number of employees decreased from 1,138 in 2012 to 1,135 in 2018, the number of “correctional officers” from South Bay House of Correction increased from 391 in 2012 to 441 in 2018. In six years, the average pay of correctional officers increased 76 percent, from $18,084 in 2012 to $75,296 in 2018, while total pay in the entire department increased 15 percent over the same period, from $71,939,046 to $85,059,220.   Similarly, the number of “jail officers” from […]

MassOpenBooks: A Look at the Highest Paid Private Vendors in 2018

In 2018, quasi-public Massachusetts agencies made a total of 115,202 payments worth $7.1 billion to private vendors. Quasi-public agencies are entities that receive state funding but remain partially autonomous from the executive and legislative branches. Since these agencies are somewhat independent, a look at which private vendors are paid the most, can provide important insights that promote accountability and efficient use of tax dollars.  MassOpenBooks supports this objective by presenting the large dataset in an accessible way. As displayed in the “Totals” section of MassOpenBooks, the average payment was $61,874, and the largest payment was approximately $151 million.  Below are the top five private vendors for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the Commonwealth Health […]

Vehicle Maintenance Expenses Reveal Need for Updated T System

The MBTA is in the midst of a transformative $8 billion, five-year capital investment program. There is perhaps no better metric that represents the necessity of the MBTA’s initiative than vehicle maintenance expenses.  According to Pioneer Institute’s, between 2007 and 2017 the T experienced a nearly 60 percent increase in overall vehicle maintenance expenses as spending grew from $211,925,186 in 2007 to $338,597,765 in 2017. While peer transportation systems also experienced higher vehicle maintenance costs, the MBTA far surpassed them. In fact, the T went from seventh to fourth among its peers in terms of vehicle maintenance expenses between 2007 and 2017. One of the main reasons the MBTA experienced such a significant increase was the rise in vehicle […]

Demand Response Transportation on the Decline

Despite a growth in public transportation use in recent years, the MBTA has seen a decline in demand response transportation. Demand response transportation is on-demand service primarily for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as some other services like commuter shuttles. According to Pioneer Institute’s, the MBTA’s demand response transportation experienced a 20 percent decrease between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017. The MBTA’s primary demand response transportation is the RIDE, a paratransit service that serves the elderly and disabled. The decline in RIDE users is likely due to the emergence of ridesharing apps, as usage of the MBTA’s demand response transportation began to decline in 2013, shortly after Uber launched in Massachusetts. This is unsurprising considering the convenience ridesharing apps […]

Mass Analysis: Municipalities in Massachusetts that collect the most in forfeitures & fees per capita

Fines and forfeitures can be a relatively significant revenue source for municipalities.  In 2017, they generated a total of $103,647,376 for Massachusetts cities and towns. Such revenue plugs holes in local budgets.  According to MassAnalysis, the five municipalities with the highest fine and forfeiture revenue per capita generated a total of $75,232,513 in 2017, accounting for 78 percent of the statewide total.   Fines and forfeitures are collected from a variety of sources, including:  parking and speeding tickets  neglecting trash/snow removal  property seizure during an investigation. The fluctuation of state and federal aid municipalities receive in a fiscal year impacts how aggressively they pursue fine and forfeiture revenue.  In 2017, Boston generated half the fine and forfeiture revenue in the state […]

MBTA Strikes Balance Nationally with Number of Vehicles Operated

The MBTA provides incredible benefits to the citizens of Massachusetts. Given that Metropolitan Boston provides 74 percent of the state’s jobs and generates 84 percent of its gross domestic product, the MBTA has the enormous responsibility of transporting about 500,000 commuters daily to sustain economic growth in the Commonwealth.  While the T has the obvious benefit of helping commuters get to work, including the 27 percent of MBTA light and heavy rail riders who are from zero-car households, the T actually generates $11.4 billion in annual benefits ($3.6 billion in travel cost savings, $7.1 billion in travel time savings, $640 million in avoided crash costs, and $30 million in avoided pollution costs). Given the importance of public transportation in the […]

MBTA’s Popular Heavy Rail System Lacking Expenditures

The MBTA’s heavy rail system is made up of the Red, Orange, and Blue lines and is a critical part of greater Boston’s public transportation network. In fact, given that about 57 percent of MBTA trips are on subways, heavy rail is crucial to countless individuals and companies in the Boston area. According to Pioneer Institute’s, from 2007 to 2017 unlinked passenger trips on the T grew by over 44 percent. In the same time period, the heavy rail system was the most popular of the T’s transit modes, chalking up 1.7 billion unlinked passenger trips, or nearly 60 million more than any other MBTA mode of transportation. In fact, the heavy rail system experienced a 14% growth between […]

MassOpenBooks: A Look at Annual Pension Trends

In 2018, the Commonwealth provided $5.2 Billion in pension benefits to retirees in the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) and Massachusetts State Employees’ Retirement System (MSERS). Of this amount, 42.6 percent went to the MSERS and 57.4 percent went to the MTRS. The public can sort through this pension data on MassOpenBooks, Pioneer Institute’s government transparency tool. The yearly change section of MassOpenBooks analyzes the pension data by providing the percent change since 2011. Below are charts that illustrate the average pension by year for MSERS and MTRS. In 2014, the average annual pension in the MSERS was $32,182. By 2018, it was $37,263, a 15.8 percent increase. During this time, there was a 27.5 percent increase in the total […]

MassOpenBooks: A Look at the Top Departments by Average Overtime Pay in 2018

In 2018, the Commonwealth provided a total of $368.15 million in overtime pay to state employees. MassOpenBooks, Pioneer Institute’s government transparency tool, sorts through and presents this data in an accessible manner. Below is a chart that lists the top 10 departments by average overtime pay for 2018. As indicated in the payroll section of MassOpenBooks, the Department of State Police has been the top agency for average overtime pay since 2010, the earliest year for which data has been made available by the state. From this time to 2018, average overtime pay increased 34.73 percent. This change is particularly concerning, considering the department’s recent overtime scandal. The State Police Department is not the only law enforcement agency to experience […]