Gov. Maura Healey introduced a bill earlier this month that would give local governments a suite of new powers that are aimed at bolstering budgets and easing administrative burdens.

Titled the Municipal Empowerment Act, the governor’s bill would allow towns to enact a new motor vehicle excise surcharge, raise the local hotel and home rental tax from its current limit of 6 per cent to 7 per cent, as well as increase the local option meals tax. 

The reform package, unveiled Jan. 19 and officially filed Monday, would also create new property tax exemptions for seniors, change municipal procurement regulations and allow school projects to increase their borrowing timelines from 30 to 40 years. 

Several Island town officials said they were still mulling the bill’s plethora of potential changes, though some didn’t think their towns would be interested in raising the rooms tax or adding onto the meals tax. 

Edgartown’s rooms tax is currently 4 per cent and the town’s affordable housing committee has talked about raising it to 6 per cent. The tax is paid by tourists staying at hotels and short-term rentals. Increasing it to 7 per cent would probably take some time, said Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty, who also wasn’t in favor of some of the other increases. 

“That would be up for future discussion,” he said. “I personally think the motor vehicle is high enough. Edgartown’s current local receipts are very healthy.” 

Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Madison said he hadn’t delved too deeply into Ms. Healey’s bill but he didn’t see Aquinnah being in favor of higher taxes for rentals, a hike in the meals tax or the new excise surcharge. 

“Things of that nature, I just don’t support,” he said. “We just raised the short term rental tax from 4 to 6 per cent. I don’t see increasing that as a viable consideration at this point.” 

Several other Island town administrators said they had heard about the proposal, but hadn’t looked it over during the busy budget season. 

“At this time we are still just beginning our review of the new legislation and haven’t formed any opinions on the amended provisions yet,” said Deborah Potter, the Oak Bluffs town administrator. “Hopefully there will be some modifications that will be beneficial to the town and if so we will forward them to the respective boards and committees for input.” 

The idea for the bill came after the Healey administration traveled across the state to meet with municipal leaders. The governor’s office said it heard from 130 managers and administrators from 112 municipalities.

The bill would also make several pandemic-era allowances permanent. Hybrid public meetings, which have been popular with Island towns, would be allowed under the new proposal.

Ms. Healey’s bill also includes provisions to create a commission to consider how to deal with the state’s large unfunded other post-employment benefits (OPEB), to allow towns to start regional boards of assessors, and raise the threshold for procurement protocols. 

“A lot of these are options for the town,” Mr. Hagerty said. “Ultimately it adds a little flexibility and agility.”