Council passes budget after contentious debate
Last year, as president of the Boston City Council, Kim Janey voted no on former Mayor Martin Walsh’s budget, because it didn’t do enough to cut down on the police budget. Last week, city councilors passed acting Mayor Janey’s budget, while maintaining their criticism of her decision to add more officers to the force.
“This budget is not perfect. It’s far from perfect,” Ways and Means Committee Chair Kenzie Bok said before the vote. “I, and members of the council, harbor significant concerns about whether we are actually on track to achieve the overtime savings budgeted for the police department, not least because we struggled so much to achieve those last year,” Bok said.
Bok was referring to last year, when the Boston Police Department overspent its overtime budget despite Walsh’s $12 million reduction.
This year, the Janey administration proposed a $399 million police budget, and cut the overtime budget from $65 million to $45 million — representing nearly a 33% reduction from the actual overtime spending of last year and a roughly 8% drop from the 2021 overtime budget, but in any case a much smaller reduction than the $120 million overall police budget cut that youth organizers called for during a rally Saturday.
The administration’s long-term plan to maintain overtime savings is to increase the number of officers by 30, a move that activists say may not result in any savings, and that angered those calling for a smaller police presence in Boston.
Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who voted “yes,” said that adding more officers to the force will not reduce overtime spending. He cited a 2015 audit of the BPD, which stated that the department needed to put additional measures in place to control overtime.
“Imagine my surprise when I look up the [study] that stated specifically that that didn’t seem to check out, because when they added more officers to these units, we got higher overtime,” Arroyo said.
The study, conducted by Public Safety Strategies, said the department needs to properly assess the workload needed to meet service demands.
Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell, who has criticized Janey’s budget from the beginning of the process, said that a restructuring needs to happen in the police department.
“I remain wholly unconvinced that the city will be able to actualize their promise of a $21 million overtime reduction by adding officers to the department, especially when this problem is clearly systemic and demands much deeper change,” Campbell said.
During last week’s meeting, the councilors agreed to add a working session after Bok noted that most of the body did not approve of Janey’s budget.
During the working session on Friday, June 25 and a final public hearing on Monday, June 28, councilors asked for more money for youth jobs, more money to address the addiction crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (known as “Mass & Cass”), and more money for green jobs.
Bok announced at the meeting that the administration accommodated these requests with additional funding. Councilor Julia Mejia applauded the new line item that allocates $800,000 for youth jobs, for which she advocated heavily in the working session. This is an increase from the original $300,000.
Janey’s budget also included $3 million more for Mass & Cass aid and $3 million more for green jobs. In total, before the vote, the administration added an additional $15.4 million.
“A supplemental like this is an unprecedented thing,” Bok said, and thanked the councilors for speaking up.
The FY22 Operating Budget passed 10-2, with Campbell and Michelle Wu voting no.