MUNICIPAL LEADERS are angry at Governor Patrick’s proposal to trim a total of $9 million from unrestricted aid to localities as a way to cope with the state’s midyear budget shortfall. It’s a tough message for local officials to hear, since it comes on top of $28.7 million in targeted cuts to specific accounts, including school transportation.
But local officials are no longer helpless in the face of cuts in local aid, thanks in large part to initiatives of the Patrick administration. The most important has been municipal health care reform, which has given cities and towns flexible ways to dramatically reduce the costs of coverage for their employees. Municipalities also can opt to generate local revenues through taxes on meals and hotel occupancies — tools that raised about $220 million in fiscal year 2012. The state Department of Revenue points out that communities are leaving millions of dollars on the table by not exercising local-option taxes on meals.