Based on the work of the Small Town Summits over the last two years?and our continuing research on related topics, Rural Commonwealth has released a short list of legislative priorities for the next session of the Massachusetts general court.
Payments for State-owned Land: The one-year leveling of PILOT payments that was approved this year is fine, but it does not address the loss of tax income that continues as state agencies continue to purchase land in rural towns. A solution requires both?legislation and other actions as listed below:
- All hearings about state-owned land should be held in the communities where the parcels in question are located.
- Assessors, Select Boards, Finance Committee members, and Town Administrators should receive single-topic notifications about any proposed or actual changes to the state-owned land compensation procedures.
- Each rural town should be reimbursed for state-owned land on a consistent annual basis using a formula that is based on the town’s current residential tax rate and the number of acres owned by the State during that year.
- The Legislature should explore and support ways to make it easier for farmers to obtain mortgages on agricultural properties that exceed 20 acres.
Transportation in the “rural core” (towns between the Berkshires and I-91 between Vermont and Connecticut). We have prepared a paper for the Small Town Summit and the legislature on the lack of transportation in these 59 towns. While some excellent efforts have been made by the Hilltown CDC, there are many needs in these communities not being met, for instance, employees have no public transportation to their jobs, there is no delivery service for needed prescriptions or groceries, regional school transportation is an expensive mess to put it politely, and the list continues.?There need to be coordinated projects that alleviate these transportation deficits.? We propose legislation for?a funded study into transportation solutions for these towns.?
Regional school funding. The terrific work by Adam to begin sparsity aid brings hope to regional schools. The revised education funding formula must get through the legislature and signed by the governor.
ZIP Codes. As the Senator knows better than most, the zip code issue affects everything from voting, to birth and death records, to hotel and restaurant tax and more. This issue requires both non-legislative and legislative action. First, we proposal a meeting to include legislators, DOR, RMV, Secretary of State, Auditor, Lt. Governor to address the ZIP codes problem. Correcting the problem will require legislation that funds?changes to State databases?currently using ZIP codes?in an inappropriate way.?