Boston City Council approves $4.3 billion budget, with increases for police and education

The Boston City Council approved a nearly $4.3 billion operating budget Wednesday evening, after battling for weeks with Mayor Michelle Wu over proposed cuts, including a bid by progressive councilors to shrink the police budget.

That group attempted to override several of Wu’s vetoes in a marathon six-hour meeting, but ultimately passed just one of their proposed measures.

“Everything progressive that comes through here — not just this body, not just the handful of you who vote it down — the mayor votes it down too,” Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson said. “I will continue to support progressive policies that uplift and move our city in the right direction.”

Mayor Wu earlier this month rejected the council’s roughly $30 million proposed cut to the police department.

The final city operating budget includes about $405 million for the Boston Police Department — about a $9 million increase from last year’s budget.

"We’re grateful to the City Council for approving a budget restoring full funding to core city services and public safety," a spokesperson for the mayor said.

Other highlights from the newly passed operating budget include:

  • $1.4 billion for Boston Public Schools, an increase of nearly 5% over last year
  • $4 million in new funding to add 350 seats to the city's universal pre-K program
  • $3.3 million to keep emergency housing sites open through the year
  • $6 million for upgrading Boston's 311 online system for logging complaints and requests
  • $500,000 to subsidize 10,000 Bluebikes memberships for city residents

As for the police budget, the end result is a far cry from widespread calls three years ago to “defund the police.”

Wu had campaigned on a police reform platform, and fought for cuts to the police budget as a city councilor. But as mayor, she has moved away from slashing the police budget, calling such cuts “illusory” because the city is contractually obligated to cover police overtime.

Wu says she’s pursuing changes to matters like overtime and disciplinary procedures in the new police union contract. Those negotiations are ongoing.

Councilor Fernandes Anderson on Wednesday proposed a smaller cut to the police department — about $1.45 million — to fund a new Office of Participatory Budgeting, for city residents to propose projects. But the vote failed 5-7.

The only override vote to pass was for nearly $600,000 to increase the salaries of municipal security officers.

But the mayor's office may challenge even that. Wu's spokesperson said they'd be "reviewing the legal validity of the override provision," arguing the city charter places sole authority to contract with municipal unions with the administration, and not the City Council.

The newly passed operating budget includes money for more seats in the city’s universal pre-K program, and funding to improve Boston public housing properties and help make them fossil fuel-free.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

This article was originally published on June 29, 2023.

Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live