The (MDB) on the Department of Revenue's website is an unmatched source for all manner of data relating to municipal finance, offering, in addition the general characteristics of each of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns, an extensive list of financial management best practices.

In the past year, the MDB has also become a popular destination for those seeking information on the local option meals and room taxes. I'm pleased to say that as of just last month, the MDB's has been reorganized. The Local Options page is now one-stop shopping for lists of all local options available for enactment in cities and towns, as well as the communities that have elected adoptions.

This will prove especially helpful for municipal officials, and the public at large, seeking information on the number of communities that have adopted local option meals and rooms taxes. You now have in a single location all the data needed to track both the acceptance of these options and the revenue generated. For instance, the local option meals tax has now been accepted by 122 communities, who collectively have received about $37.5 million in new revenue since the first quarterly distribution last November. These receipts can serve as a guide for other like communities considering adoption of this local option in the future.

And while on the subject of data, I want to refence next week's feature article focusing on new research done by DLS IT director Dave Davies -- the architect of DLS Gateway program -- on the data needs of the 213 communities in Massachusetts with populations of 13,000 or less. There is no doubt that accurate and efficient data collection will take on more and more importance, and that cities and towns need to have information technology plans no less than capital spending plans. Dave's research should get communities thinking about how they measure up, and what they need to do to stay on top of this fast-changing aspect of municipal governance. Look for Dave's story next week and more data driven news in each edition.

Robert G. Nunes