The Municipal Relief Act (MRA) doc format of Act_Municipal_Relief.doc released last week by the Legislature's Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government is a collection of some of the most promising ideas drawn up over the past 18 months by the Patrick-Murray Administration, the legislature, local officials, municipal advocacy groups and private citizens.

The goal of the MRA doc format of Municipal_Relief_Act_Highlights.doc is simple and direct - provide cities and towns with the tools they need to operate efficiently and cost-effectively.

My thanks go to the Municipal Relief Commission and to the Municipalities and Regional Government Committee for sponsoring this legislation and for working behind the scenes to achieve as much consensus as possible in advance of releasing the MRA. Of course, I am happy to see that many of the MRA recommendations draw directly on proposals Governor Deval Patrick offered in his second Municipal Partnership Act.

The MRA proposals combine common sense with sound management. In some cases, the proposals allow cities and towns to do the kinds of things one might have assumed they already could accomplish; for example, e-billing, which is a common occurrence in the private sector. In other cases, the MRA would facilitate creation of cooperative purchasing and mutual aid agreements, which can save cities and towns real money.

There isn't a municipal manager around who would turn down an increase in local aid. But in these lean fiscal times, and it goes without saying in the absence of such increases, the state can still offer new management tools that could save cities and towns millions of precious budget dollars.

Among the highlights is a bill that would require cities and towns to enroll retired local employees in Medicare, a step already taken on the state level; the creation of an optional early retirement incentive program; allowing local pension systems to extend their funding schedules, subject to certain requirements; support for school district regionalization and sharing of superintendents; allowance for reverse auctions in procurements and local option tax amnesty programs.

I would encourage you to dive deeper into these proposals to discover other aspects that may provide you with financial and managerial relief.

Robert G. Nunes