State Controlled Revenues
In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth reserves for itself the authority to levy taxes, unless it votes to allow a Local Option tax as an exception. There is currently a proposal by Governor Patrick to levy an additional 1% meals tax statewide, which would then be redistributed back to cities and towns through a local aid formula. There is also a proposal to increase the hotel/motel tax which would benefit Northampton. The Legislature will also consider allowing a Local Option Meals tax, which Mayor Higgins and our local Representatives have long advocated for. All of these possible additional revenue sources from the State level must still work their way through the legislative process and it remains unclear whether they will actually come to pass.
Federal Stimulus Funds
People have been wondering what the local benefits might be of the recently passes Federal Stimulus Bill. Unfortunately, there remains some uncertainty in this as well.
All Stimulus funds are directed to the States, and not to local governments. They arrive with significant regulations in terms of how they may be spent. We anticipate receiving IDEA (Special Education) funding and Title I (Remedial Education) funding, but in both of those cases, we expect the funds will come as supplemental revenue. In other words, we cannot use the funds to fill in existing budget revenues gaps.
There remains a possibility that there may be additional Stimulus package funds for Police Officers through the COPS program and there may be additional CDBG funding, but neither of those are at all clear yet.
Mayor Higgins has been serving at the request of the Lt. Governor on a statewide task force about the use of Stimulus Funds in Massachusetts and will continue to receive the most up-to-date information as it becomes available from Boston.