EDUCATION Best Practices

Administration and Finance

Best Practice:  Funding is assigned to the proper cost centers, costs are allocated appropriately between the municipal government and the school district, and costs and information is shared in a way that facilitates school-based budgeting.   There is evidence that municipal and school administration and finance services are shared to realize economies of scale and may include the consolidation or regionalization of district administration.  Data reporting is coordinated across all departments to align staffing and student data with financial reporting, and is consistent with DESE guidelines in order to facilitate benchmarking and comparisons to other schools and districts.  Required data reports are sent to DESE through the School Interoperability Framework (SIF).    Data reporting meets all quality assurance metrics for timeliness and accuracy.

Coordination and Collaboration – Professional Development

Best Practice:  There is shared access to training and supports in regard to academic improvement best practices, with other schools in the same district, and with other districts (e.g. curriculum development, lesson plans, professional development, use of data to inform instruction, benchmark program finance, and track outcomes).   Educational collaboratives and inter district agreements are utilized to achieve cost efficiencies and improve program offerings.

Coordination and Collaboration – Higher Education

Best Practice:  There is evidence of partnership agreements with higher education institutions to improve articulation with college credit as well as to promote college and career readiness.

Coordination and Collaboration - Transitions

Best Practice:  Transition supports are provided between early education and K-12 district and charter schools and demonstrate coordinated activities and resources that maximize families’ access to supports promoting successful birth to eight transitions, with a specific focus on Kindergarten transitions.

Coordination and Collaboration – Early Education

Best Practice:  There is evidence of partnerships with private providers in the provision of high quality early education and out of school time services to leverage existing resources, avoid duplication of services and enhance and streamline systems for children and families.   The community can demonstrate local adoption of a framework to organize, align and integrate community efforts in early education and care, out of school time services, and family engagement. 


 

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT Best Practices

Maximizing Energy Efficiency and Renewable Opportunities

Best Practice:  There are documented and measurable energy use reduction goals; Clean power is generated locally; The municipal fleet is fuel efficient; Investments have been made in energy efficient municipal street lighting; Energy efficiency improvements and renewable thermal heating and cooling upgrades have been made to public facilities (e.g. housing and schools); Energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades have been made to water/wastewater plants.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Best Practice:  There is plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change; Regulations and incentives discourage new development in at-risk locations, enhance the resilience of existing development, and encourage mixed-use growth and travel by multiple modes to reduce emissions; Critical coastal and inland infrastructure, buildings, and energy facilities are prepared for more frequent and intense storms.

Sustainable Development and Land Protection

Best Practice:  There is a Master, Open Space and Recreation, or other Plan to guide future land conservation and development; Smart growth consistent zoning has been adopted (e.g. techniques in the MA Smart Growth/Smart Energy Toolkit); Investments in infrastructure and land conservation are consistent with the MA Sustainable Development Principles.

Comprehensive Water Resource Management

Best Practice:  There is a plan to supply and conserve water, manage stormwater, and treat and reuse wastewater; The MA Water Conservation Standards are being implemented;   Municipal regulations promote green infrastructure and the use of low impact development techniques; An Enterprise Fund or other mechanism is in place to fund maintenance and replacement of water infrastructure.

Solid Waste and Site Cleanup

Best Practice:  There is a documented plan and approach to Brownfield redevelopment; There is a solid waste master plan; Waste management best practices have been adopted (e.g. “pay as you throw”).  

Promote Local Agriculture

Best Practice:  A right to farm by-law or ordinance has been adopted; The community supports access to fresh produce through the creation of farmers markets and/or establishment of urban agriculture (e.g.  commercial ventures or community gardens); Farmland is conserved through acquisition and/or regulation; Sustainable forestry is encouraged.


 

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Best Practices

Budget Document

Best Practice:  The annual budget is a municipality’s most important annual policy-making document.  As such, the budget document details all revenues and expenditures, provides a narrative describing priorities and financial challenges, and otherwise offers clear and transparent communication of community policies to residents and businesses.

Financial Policies

Best Practice:  Sound financial policies provide important structure and consistency around local fiscal policy decisions and are documented and adhered to.  This best practice is achieved by evidence of documented fiscal policies including reserve levels, capital financing, and use of Free Cash.

Long-range Planning/Forecasting

Best Practice:  Financial forecasting and long-term planning help communities detect fiscal challenges earlier, develop strategies to address issues that emerge, and provide the context for analyzing multi-year contracts and other financial trends.  There is a documented financial planning process and plan that assesses long-term financial implications of current and proposed policies, programs and assumptions.

Capital Planning

Best Practice:  Funding capital needs on a regular basis is critical to maintaining publicly-owned assets and delivering services effectively.   The community develops and documents a multi-year capital plan that reflects a community’s needs, is reviewed annually and fits within a financing plan that reflects the community’s ability to pay.

Review Financial Management Structure

Best Practice:  A strong and appropriately structured finance team is critical to both the short- and long-term health of a municipality.  Communities striving for this best practice will evaluate the structure and reporting relationships of its finance offices to ensure that they support accountability and a cohesive financial team process.  To the extent that gaps are identified, the community develops a written plan for implementation of the desired finance team structure.   


 

HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Best Practices

Preparing for Success

Best Practice:  There is a demonstrated ability to partner with the private sector, non-profits, and public sector organizations in order to advance the housing and economic development vision and goals of the community as evidenced by the successful completion of public/private/non-profit project(s). 

Housing

Best Practice:  There is a documented community-supported housing plan that accounts for changing demographics, including young families, workforce dynamics, and an aging population. 

Infrastructure

Best Practice:  There is evidence of a community plan and process being followed to identify development sites and to undertake the necessary steps to enhance site readiness by ensuring the appropriate zoning, permitting, and land assembly.

Competitiveness

Best Practice:  There is evidence of the continuous use of performance measures for the evaluation of how competitive the community is compared to other communities in terms of attractiveness for commercial development, and housing expansion. 

Job Creation and Retention

Best Practice:   There is a documented economic development plan which leverages local economic sector strengths, regional assets, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and demonstrates collaboration with educational institutions for the development of a workforce plan.


 

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Best Practices

Cyber Security

Best Practice:  There is a documented cyber-security strategy, including policies, procedures and controls aligned with an industry standard security framework.

Transparency

Best Practice:  There is a documented open data strategy including timelines for making municipal spending and budget information accessible from the city or town website in a machine readable and graphical format.

Business Continuity

Best Practice:  There is a written disaster recovery and backup plan for critical municipal systems along with a documented plan to transfer paper documents to an electronic format and securely store backup electronic municipal data in locations geographically separated from the primary source.

Citizen Engagement

Best Practice:   There is a documented citizen engagement strategy for deployment of technology solutions, including a public communication strategy and a professional development strategy to ensure that internal resources can effectively engage with users via technology.

Data Standards

Best Practice:   There is a documented plan to implement generally accepted data standards in use at the national or regional-level to promote system interoperability, local data analysis and regional data analysis.

 


 

REGIONALIZATION/SHARED SERVICES Best Practices

Best Practice:  In an era of shrinking budgets, loss of seasoned employees to retirement, and increased need for service improvements, productive partnerships between municipalities make sense for some communities.  This best practices encourages regionalization of some services and sharing resources among municipalities.  Technical assistance is available to help your community and potential municipal partners determine if regionalizing is the path to take.

 


 

TRANSPORTATION AND CITIZENS SAFETY Best Practices

Complete Streets

Best Practice:  Complete Streets policies and programs provide accommodations for all users and modes, create safer and more livable neighborhoods, and encourage healthy transportation alternatives.  The municipality will become certified through MassDOT and demonstrate the regular and routine inclusion of complete streets design elements and infrastructure on locally-funded roads.   

Safe Routes to School

Best Practice:  The community will show evidence of a comprehensive safe routes to school program which includes the prioritization of snow removal around schools and routes to schools as well as snow removal from bus stops, clearly marked crosswalks, safe sidewalks, safe student pick-up/drop-off areas free from congestion.  The program will also include student education on pedestrian safety such as taking care in walking past driveways and through a parking lot, using cross walks, and crossing with a crossing guard.

A Safe and Mobile Future for Older Drivers

Best Practice:  There is a documented plan to address the anticipated increase in older drivers in the years to come.  The plan will include a goal for reducing crashes involving older drivers over the next five years, identification of the issues surrounding older driver mobility, including infrastructure improvements, education for older road users and the public with topics to include insurance and liability concerns, and medically impaired drivers, as well as identify and promote transportation options for older adults in the community.

Sharing Best Practices

Best Practice:  Municipal Public Works Departments and Highway Departments can learn from each other and share best practices about technologies and operating, maintaining and managing the assets and departments for which they are responsible.  Participation in the Baystate Roads Program (BSR) is a demonstration of implementing this best practice.  The Baystate Roads Program  is a federally and state funded program that provides and facilitates the sharing of state of the art planning, design, and operational information for city and town public works managers.

Citizen Safety

Best Practice:  There are documented community-based programs to increase, pedestrian safety and motorcycle safety, and promote awareness of the use of seatbelts and child seats, the dangers of texting and distracted driving, the dangers of speeding and aggressive driving, and the dangers of driving while impaired.  The community will demonstrate participation in the Commonwealth’s Office of Public Safety and Security’s trainings and conferences as well as the dissemination of public safety information to citizens.

Timely Traffic Citation Submissions and Public Safety

Best Practice: There are documented standards processes that when applied by police departments will improve the timely submission of Civil Motor Vehicle Infraction (CMVI) traffic citations. Timely submissions of traffic citations increases public safety by keeping dangerous drivers off the roads; allows faster distribution of funds to cities and towns and allows for timely addition of citations to violators driving records.