Walsh Budget Proposal Would Increase City Spending By 4 Percent

Boston City Hall is seen in November 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston City Hall is seen in November 2015. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh presented his annual budget proposal to city councilors Wednesday, a $2.97 billion plan that represents a 4 percent ($115 million) spending increase over the current budget.

In a statement, Walsh's office says the fiscal year 2017 budget proposal is "a balanced and responsible plan that is responsive to the needs to Boston's residents."

The proposal's executive summary cites a number of cost pressures on city coffers, including rising pension and health insurance payments, declining state education aid and a 2013 police arbitration award that "creat[ed] an unsustainable precedent for public safety salary increases."

Walsh's budget proposal seeks savings by, for instance, cutting overtime hours for public safety and streets departments, which have risen in recent years, and by eliminating over 100 positions that are currently vacant. The two initiatives would save the city an estimated $16.3 million.

Breakdown of proposed expenditures, from the budget executive summary (Courtesy city of Boston)
Breakdown of proposed expenditures, from the executive summary (Courtesy city of Boston)

Forty percent of the city's budget proposal is pegged for education -- 35 percent for Boston Public Schools, 5 percent for charter schools.

The $1.03 billion Boston Public Schools budget, which includes $3 million to add another 200 pre-kindergarten seats next year, was approved by the School Committee last month.

Other expenditures include hiring additional EMTs and purchasing new ambulances for the city's fleet, and an allocation of $1.3 million for the mayor's action plan to end chronic homelessness by 2018.

The $1.3 million would pay for triage workers at the city-owned homeless shelters to immediately connect people entering the shelters with support services. It would also fund rental assistance to get people rapidly re-housed. The proposed funding would be more than three times what the city currently spends on connecting people who are homeless with services and housing.

"This is a forward-looking budget that puts us on the cutting edge of both policy vision and operational excellence," Walsh said in the statement. "Together, by strong collaboration and bold reform, we can fight inequality and ensure that our city's prosperity is shared widely."

A January report from the Brookings Institution named Boston the most unequal big city in America.

The Boston City Council is set to take up Walsh's budget proposal later this spring, with a vote set for late June.

With reporting by WBUR's Lynn Jolicoeur

Correction: An earlier version of this post said 40 percent of the mayor's budget proposal is for Boston Public Schools. In fact, 40 percent is for education — BPS and charter schools. We regret the error. 

This article was originally published on April 13, 2016.


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