- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Testimony of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump in Support of New Building Authority Bills
Samantha Ormsby, Director of Communications
BOSTON — As prepared for delivery.
Good morning Senator Timilty, Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Gonzalez, Representative Biele and members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Thank you for allowing me to testify before you today in support of several pieces of legislation that share the goal of creating a municipal and/or public safety building authority. These bills are S.2457 sponsored by Senator Comerford, S. 2125 sponsored by Senator Timilty and H. 3821 sponsored by Representative Blais.
While the specifics of each bill may differ slightly, collectively they put forward a solution to address an urgent need that we have heard loud and clear from our partners at the local level. That is the need for a state-supported authority to assist in the construction or renovation of municipal and public safety buildings.
The absence of such an authority is negatively impacting the quality of life and the delivery of vital public services across the state, especially in our rural communities. Western Massachusetts communities in particular have been left without the tools necessary to maintain or develop public infrastructure as a result in part from a lack of overall resources. There, declining or stagnant property values translate into fewer dollars to provide adequate public building maintenance, let alone support renovation or replacement. When you consider the critical infrastructure this is impacting – from places such as city and town halls, public works facilities, senior centers, as well as police, fire, and emergency medical stations, I believe it is incumbent upon us as elected officials to take action.
Last fall the Division of Local Mandates examined the Commonwealth’s east-west divide in terms of critical infrastructure. While much of the report focused on roads, bridges and culverts, we also examined the state of municipal buildings. It has caused me to advocate for a rural rescue plan, of which a municipal building component is a part. We heard from towns whose new fire engines sit outside the station because they won’t fit in its antiquated building, municipal buildings that lack needed features such as rest rooms or kitchens. The Town of Deerfield has a senior center serving multiple communities that sits unused because it is in such disrepair, and the communities’ lack the resources for a proper rebuild. The City of Pittsfield has a vision for a much-needed new police station, but at a cost that is beyond their limited capital budget resources. As a result, filmmakers use the facility to showcase police stations from decades ago. The list goes on.
These bills that are before you today offer a reasonable and smart solution to these challenges and are in line with the findings and recommendations of our report. It should also be noted that the creation of an entity dedicated to this purpose is not unique to municipal and public safety buildings. As you all know, educational facilities have a dedicated state agency for this purpose through the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is a highly effective and well-regarded authority that helps with project planning and funding. It carefully examines each community’s ability to self-fund, and makes its award determinations accordingly. It provides a highly credible model to follow. Since its inception in 2004, MSBA has provided $13.6 billion in direct reimbursements through its dedicated revenue stream of one cent from the state’s 6.25% sales tax, and has benefitted approximately 600,000 students.
Imagine the possibilities for municipal and public safety buildings. Everything from enhanced public access to improved senior services to accommodations for new IT to reduced emergency response times could be enhanced for all our citizens. It will no longer be only the wealthy communities whose governments can meet their residents’ needs. In the name of equity, please act on this urgent need.
Thank you for your consideration, and I would be happy to answer any questions from the committee.