Mayor signs $2.98B Fiscal Year 2017 Budget
Mayor Martin Walsh signed a $2.98 billion Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) city budget [see story here] that achieves savings through data-oriented management; tackles structural challenges identified through operational reviews and planning; and makes targeted investments ranging from access to quality early childhood education, to addressing chronic and veteran homelessness, to reducing Emergency Medical Services response time.
Based on recommendations from operational reviews and a data-driven approach to managing government, the FY17 Budget includes several reforms, including:
- Boston Public Schools will deploy a new transportation tap card system to gain data to run a more efficient student transportation system, which will save $10 million in FY17. Through data about ridership, BPS will work to improve bus routing to reduce the number of trips. The system will also provide real-time information to parents about their students’ bus ride.
- City departments have eliminated over 100 long-term vacant positions saving $4.7 million in FY17 without impacting service levels.
- Building on work over the last two years to assess and inventory the Library’s print collection, in FY17 Boston Public Library is refocusing Special Collection’s work to improve inventory management, a key recommendation of their 2015 operational review.
- Evaluation of Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) programing found that the department could more effectively meet youth, families’ and seniors’ need for longer evening and weekend community center hours and a dedicated senior center by redeploying existing resources. With this reform, BCYF will make cost-neutral changes to dedicate the Grove Hall Community Center as a senior center, expand operating hours at all stand-alone sites, expand Saturday evening hours, enable five centers to operate seven days per week, and allow 17 centers to operate six days per week.
- The budget allows for realignment of several City departments including Department of Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Property Management and Public Facilities to more efficiently and effectively meet their core missions.
- Based on the Fire Department’s operational review, the FY17 budget allows for improved Fire fleet maintenance and deploys a new apparatus replacement plan to promote firefighter safety and improve the state of fire engines and ladders.
The much needed reform measures being implemented in FY17 make possible increased investments across City government. Walsh’s FY17 Budget maintains high levels of funding in Boston Public Schools at $1.032 billion and public safety at $578 million and uses savings to make targeted investments in a thriving, health and innovative City. Through these investments the City will:
- Increase access to quality early childhood education by expanding Boston Public Schools’ K1 programming by another 200 seats, building on the 200 seats added over the last two years.
- Launch the Superintendent’s new Excellence for All pilot program, which will offer fourth graders in 13 schools access to rigorous and enriched experiences, bringing the benefits of the Advanced Work Classes to a more diverse set of students and equipping them with new skills such as foreign languages and robotics.
- Support the Homeless Action Plan to End Chronic and Veteran Homelessness, by providing front door triage staff at Pine Street Inn, rapid re-housing rental assistance, additional emergency shelter to families and low barrier permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
- Launch Parks First, a comprehensive initiative ensuring that Boston’s open spaces are among the Nation’s most accessible and equitable.
- Support the opening of nine Early Voting sites, one in each of the city’s nine council districts, to increase voting opportunities for all qualified voters for the November 2016 election.
- Allow Boston 311 call takers to have the ability to interact with residents through interpreters, and allow the City to be able to translate more newsletters, press releases, and other notices in a variety of languages.
- Streamline access to small business resources through a single point of contact and provide small businesses with technical assistance to help businesses improve their marketing, access capital markets, enhance strategy and operations and gain human resources training.
- Reduce EMS response times by adding additional EMTs and new ambulances.
- Allow individuals seeking information about, or access to, addiction treatment services to reach the PAATHS (Providing Access to Addictions Treatment, Hope and Support) program through Boston’s 311 service.
- Modernize public safety by supporting the Police body camera pilot, revitalizing Police radios, and upgrading Boston’s E-9-1-1 system.
- Use $1 million in Boston Redevelopment Authority public benefit funds to better serve and support the artists of Boston.
In addition to taking immediate steps in FY17 to improve City operations and meet demands for programs and services, the Walsh Administration continues work to tackle long-standing challenges and future unknown cost drivers. The City is actively working to negotiate affordable collective bargaining agreements with almost all of its unions – salary increases in these agreements will have a direct impact on dollars available in FY17 and in the coming years. The Boston Public School’s Long-Term Financial Planning Committee is working on a long-term plan for the District’s solvency with recommendations that will address cost-drivers and revenue opportunities. Given stagnant state revenue, the City will expand its efforts and also focus on maximizing local receipt collection. Finally, the Walsh Administration will continue to advocate for reforms to charter school finance that protect Boston taxpayers while allowing for moderate growth in the charter school cap.
The FY17 Budget builds on the Walsh Administration’s record of fiscal responsibility, commitment to addressing its long-term liabilities and strong data-driven management. The City’s success in these areas was validated in 2016 by the affirmation of Boston’s triple A bond rating.