COVID-19 will likely lead to a recession. Can Massachusetts municipal budgets handle one?

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Using municipalities' experiences during the Great Recession, a new policy brief examines the likely impact of COVID-19 on local property taxes, as well as political implications for state aid. We list the municipal revenues by category among the least tax-reliant communities in MA, show the trajectory of tax revenue growth rate in Massachusetts state and local governments, and rank stabilization fund assets per capita among Massachusetts Gateway Cities.

Outdated and Obfuscated: The State of Public Financial Disclosure in Massachusetts

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Despite some recent progress, there is more to do if the Commonwealth is to make the Statements of Financial Interest (SFIs) that public officials file annually truly accessible to Massachusetts citizens.

A New Start for Massachusetts Middle Cities

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This white paper calls for the creation of an Infrastructure Investment Fund that would use excess money drawn from the Massachusetts Convention Center Fund to jumpstart economic activity in parts of Massachusetts that have not benefited from Greater Boston’s boom, through a competitive process built around local reforms.

Ten Years Later: Trends in Urban Redevelopment

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This report updates a 2006 study of 14 Massachusetts cities with populations of more than 40,000 and average per-capita annual incomes of below $25,000 (Pittsfield is the one city in the study in which per-capita income is greater than $25,000). It provides a report card on how these Middle Cities are faring a decade after our last analysis, in terms of economic development, financial administration, education, and public safety. The aim is to inform the current policy discourse on redevelopment strategies in these important cities to identify municipalities and policy approaches that may serve as models for all Middle Cities.

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Public Service of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regarding the Fiscal Condition of Local Retirement Systems

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Testimony before the Joint Committee on Public Service of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regarding the Fiscal Condition of Local Retirement Systems provided in January 2014.

Guide to Sound Fiscal Management for Municipalities

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This guide is intended to help engaged citizens, particularly the members of municipal finance committees, understand how best to perform an analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal spending.

A Practitioner's Guide to Outsourcing

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There is emerging academic literature on the topic of government contracting and outsourcing. This paper does not seek to examine outsourcing from an academic perspective, however, but rather seeks to be a practitioner's guide to the issue. In doing so, this paper outlines important managerial and political considerations that may help leaders evaluate the potential of outsourcing services.

Municipal Benchmarks for Massachusetts Middle Cities: A Look at Economic Growth

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This paper will explore the use of municipal benchmarks in Massachusetts, with particular reference to the 14 identified Middle Cities. Importantly, as with the original surveyor’s marks, the development and application of municipal benchmarks will require us to become comfortable thinking in relative terms—not always a simple task in a world where statistics often fly about faster than the speed of thought and the attractions of “absolute” comparisons (and judgements) tend to be hard to resist.

Facing the Economic Crisis: Challenges for Massachusetts Police Chiefs

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This paper provides a brief account of experiences and challenges facing police chiefs in several mid-sized cities in Massachusetts, the factors which impact their decision making and the strategies they utilize, and discusses the various ways in which chiefs are adapting to changing financial and social contexts.

Municipal Benchmarks for Massachusetts Middle Cities: Educational Achievement

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This study is limited to identifying which Middle City districts stand out in terms of improving MCAS scores or reducing the dropout rate. The research is not designed to identify the reasons why a certain district outperforms other districts. The work only considers achievement and dropout data in the analysis; it does not utilize any qualitative data about curriculum and instruction in the Middle Cities districts.

Driving the New Urban Agenda

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As national discussions continue on the future of cities across the country, an array of stimulus strategies are being offered. These include downsizing older industrialized cities or engaging in large-scale urban renewal projects. Whatever path is taken, Pioneer urges elected officials and policymakers not to fall into old habits of things tried that failed. The challenges our cities face are not new and while stimulus can be helpful, it will not turn back generations of economic change to which cities have not adapted.

Countdown to Fiscal Sanity

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It took one day for the House of Representatives to raise the sales tax 25 percent. It took just one day for the Senate to do the same. (The Governor has taken longer to put out his tax increase proposals, which range from a 19-cent gas tax increase, hundreds of millions of dollars in soda, candy and other targeted fees, as well as consideration of a graduated income tax.)

Ashburnham - Westminster Animal Control Agreement

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Ashburnham - Westminster Animal Control Agreement

Hubbardston - Templeton Animal Control Agreement

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Hubbardston - Templeton Animal Control Agreement

Amesbury, Salisbury, and Newburyport Animal Control Agreement

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Amesbury, Salisbury, and Newburyport Animal Control Agreement

Somerset - Swansea Animal Control Agreement

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Somerset - Swansea Animal Control Agreement

Sterling-West Boylston Shared Building Inspection Contract and Agreement

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Sterling-West Boylston Shared Building Inspection Contract and Agreement

Hawlemont Regional School District GIC Consolidation Agreement

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Hawlemont Regional School District GIC Consolidation Agreement

Holbrook GIC Consolidation Agreement

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Holbrook GIC Consolidation Agreement

Mohawk Trail GIC Consolidation Agreement

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Mohawk Trail GIC Consolidation Agreement

Saugus GIC Consolidation Agreement

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Saugus GIC Consolidation Agreement

Amesbury, Salisbury, and Newburyport Public Health Agreement

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Amesbury, Salisbury, and Newburyport Public Health Agreement

Sudbury-Wayland Septage Disposal Agreement

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Sudbury-Wayland Septage Disposal Agreement

Attleboro - North Attleborough Sewer Agreement

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Attleboro - North Attleborough Sewer Agreement

Attleboro - North Attleborough Water Agreement

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Attleboro - North Attleborough Water Agreement

Learning from Springfield

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Like most municipalities, Springfield relies in large part on local property tax revenue to deliver services. However, collecting property tax became a challenge when, in 2004, the City was struggling to avoid financial collapse. Its woes were not due just to a lagging economy and shrinking property values.

Regionalization: Case Studies of Success and Failure in Massachusetts

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Regionalization is a perennial favorite. In its various incarnations – inter-local agreements, shared services, regionalism – it is popular in theory and universally acknowledged to save money but not as widespread as one might expect. The urge to regionalize goes through periods of intense interest when budgets are tight, then is frequently ended by bureaucratic inertia and parochialism.

GIC Consolidation

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The Middle Cities Initiative seeks to help the Commonwealth's older cities, which face economic, demographic, and political challenges. These challenges cover a wide range of issues—entrenched political cultures, significant infrastructure costs, underperforming schools, struggling retail and manufacturing sectors, crime, and poorly targeted state programs. The Initiative's goal is to develop and disseminate concrete policies to help the Middle Cities grow.

Shades of Green

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This question is listed on the website for Gloucester’s Conservation Commission under “Frequently Asked Questions.” The Commission’s response is that all wetlands, including small seasonal wetlands, help clean stormwater, serve as drainage areas and provide habitat for many species.

New Business Creation and The Urban Economy

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Policymakers have long grappled with the challenge of revitalizing cities whose economies have declined as manufacturing jobs moved elsewhere. Older industrial cities’ economic woes have compounded other problems, including municipal budget crises, struggling schools, high crime rates, and persistent poverty.