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Mayor Thomas M. Menino released his FY2011 Boston budget Wednesday. The $2.5 billion city budget has fewer layoffs than last year's budget and an increase in spending of $60 million, or 2.5 percent.
While the proposal includes over 250 layoffs and consolidates a number of public services, the mayor stressed that his budget would have less drastic cuts than last year's plan.
"In this budget, we have been able to provide ourselves with a solid financial footing needed to deliver the best services to our residents for the next several years," he said. "And this budget's a really transformation budget as we move forward."
No public safety workers will lose their jobs and for the first time in several years, Boston will recruit new classes of police and firemen. Many of the layoffs come from school staff and custodians, which troubles City Council President Mike Ross.
"The current system of municipal government that we are under is not sustainable," Ross said. "We are slowly cannibalizing the core services that our residents depend on."
One such service is the Boston Public Library. Menino's budget — which follows the Board of Trustees vote last week — calls for the closing of four branches as well as the elimination of up to 77 staff positions.
The mayor says he has a plan to meet the needs of those communities where branches are closing, including placing librarians in community and senior centers to assist residents.
"There's not gonna be any neighborhoods in the city of Boston that will not have a library," Menino said. "Some neighborhoods will still have two libraries. But, you know, three or four libraries in a neighborhood, that doesn't make a lot of sense to our planning process but also the distribution of resources."
The modest uptick in planned Boston spending reflects a slight increase in city revenues, says Sam Tyler, of the Municipal Research Bureau.
"Most of that is because of an increase in property taxes, but also the new excise taxes that were approved last year," Tyler said, adding, "this year it kicks in for a whole 12 months."
Though an improving economy is garnering more revenue for the city, Paul Grogan, of the Boston Foundation, says Boston's most important fiscal issue is the rising cost of health care.
"There's such growth in health care costs for employees that that is sapping the city's ability to make investments in a better tomorrow," Grogan said.
About 12 percent of Menino's budget covers health insurance for the city's current and retired employees.
The mayor's budget next moves to Boston City Council for approval.
This program aired on April 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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