(cross-posted on Left in Lowell)
As political junkies statewide are aware, cities and towns have been struggling for funds since local aid cuts in 2002 at the same time as our healthcare and pension obligations began accelerating. State aid has been flat over the last 4 years (meaning that it has dropped in real terms once you consider inflation) while Prop 2½ restricts our property tax increases to 2.5%, meaning that we can barely even keep up with cost-of-living raises for our employees.
According to a survey by the Mass Municipal Association and the Mass Taxpayers Foundation, municipal healthcare costs rose by 63% from 2001 to 2005, going from an average of 7.4% of the budget to 10.6% over the same period. The average yearly increase over the period was 13%. The town of Tyngsboro is budgeting for a 15% increase in our healthcare line-item next year, which would be in line with previous years. For our little town, that comes out to over 300,000 dollars that we have to cut elsewhere in the budget just to keep our existing employees insured. Every year. And it’s compounding.
The proposed legislation, filed by the MAPC, preserves local decision making over all important aspects. The local unions and local officials would still set the rates of contribution (80/20 split, 70/30 split, etc) between themselves and unions will have the opportunity to bargain with management over the prospect of joining at all. Each employee will also stand to benefit from the savings on their end of the healthcare split with their town. At these cost savings, it makes sense to pass this legislation as soon as possible.
Please contact your legislators and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill by contacting either Senator Richard Moore or Representative Rachel Kaprelian’s office. If you’re not quite sold yet, tune into WCAP (980 on your AM dial if you get it) tomorrow at 7:30 AM, I’ll be discussing it there as well.