Fiscal Year 2019 budget accelerates progress, proposes new investments
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today presented his Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget proposal, a plan that affirms a commitment to progress, opportunity and innovation by investing in Boston's neighborhoods, while building on the City's strong record of proactive fiscal management. The $3.29 billion plan builds on the Walsh Administration's commitment to accelerating progress in key areas, investing in a growing middle class through strong 21st-century schools; good jobs; affordable homes in safe neighborhoods; providing pathways to opportunities; supporting public safety for a growing city; and improving core city services to benefit all residents.
The FY19 budget represents a $137 million (4.3 percent) increase over FY18. Funding for city services, such as streets, parks, public health and public safety will grow by $43 million, including $12 million in new data-driven investments, and funding for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) will grow by $48 million.
"This budget represents an investment in our values as a city, and will allow us to build upon the strong foundations we've set in supporting all of Boston neighborhoods," said Mayor Walsh. "A strong middle class means a strong Boston, and I am proud that the City's strategic management of finances will allow us to maintain our focus on advancing the prosperity of our city and our people as we continue on our path of unprecedented growth into the years ahead."
"By tackling our long-term liabilities, controlling costs and using data to drive City spending, the Mayor has prioritized strong financial management," said Emme Handy, Chief Financial Officer for the City of Boston. "This commitment has allowed the City to make record investments in our priorities, while sustaining our AAA bond rating that will contribute to our City's long-term prosperity."
"In his first term in office, Mayor Walsh has improved outcomes across the spectrum of City services, from education to housing, economic security to quality of life, and open space to the arts," said Justin Sterritt, Budget Director for the City of Boston. "The FY19 budget proposes to build on those successes and make real, meaningful changes to the future of Boston's landscape."
Data-driven Fiscal Management
Mayor Walsh today presented a balanced budget that maintains a high level of support in critical areas, made possible as a result of years of the Administration's achievements in identifying efficiencies and savings. For four consecutive years, the City's data-driven managerial approach has been validated by the affirmation of Boston's AAA bond rating, the highest rating possible. Responsible budgeting, cost containment, data-based decisions, proactive management and long-term planning will ensure the City will maintain that rating into the future.
To continue investing in the areas that will keep Boston thriving, as net state aid continues to decline, the City has implemented a number of cost savings reforms in FY19 that will save the City millions, including:
The City's efforts to control health care costs are yielding tangible results and have saved $50 million since FY15. In FY19, the City will move to nearly fully self insured resulting in an additional $1.7 million in new savings in FY19.
BPS and the City continue to review central office and transportation spending for savings, and identified $2 million in health insurance savings that will be redirected back into more nurses, counselors and psychologist.
Annually, the City reviews positions and for next year has eliminated 10 long term vacant positions, resulting in $400,000 in savings for FY19.
The City is constantly reviewing energy and fuel pricing, and favorable market changes resulted in $500,000 energy savings at departments citywide.
And finally building off a successful pilot of bringing street sweeping internal to the City for 1 district, the City will expand to a 2nd city district in FY19, saving $200,000
These savings allow the City to ensure services are more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of Boston's residents than ever before.
The Boston School Committee recently approved a $1.109 billion budget for the Boston Public Schools (BPS), marking the highest budget in history, and representing a $48 million increase over last year's budget. With this investment, Mayor Walsh has increased funding for BPS' annual budget by over $170 million (18 percent) since taking office. During the same time, BPS has continued to achieve its highest four-year high-school graduation rate and more high-ranking Level 1 and 2 schools than ever before.
Funding directed to schools will increase by almost six percent next year, a $40 million increase over last year. This includes approximately $30 million toward higher teacher salaries and an additional $10 million in supports for students with the highest need. The FY19 budget also invests in expanding successful programs that close opportunity and achievement gaps, including an empowerment program for young men of color and Excellence for All. The budget also maintains funding for signature investments in education such as extended learning time, hiring effective teachers, and early childhood education. As a result of cost-savings achieved from strong fiscal management, the budget will include a new $2.4 million investment that will fund eight additional nurses and 12 additional psychologists and social workers.
"We are all grateful to Mayor Walsh for once again putting Boston Public Schools' students first," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. "Our school staff assist students with real-life issues that go beyond academics everyday. It is heartening to see the City of Boston using savings to invest in our students despite declining state aid."
Creating and Preserving Housing for All Income Levels
Through the strategies outlined in Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030, the Administration's plan to accommodate Boston's growth, more than 26,000 new housing units have been completed or are currently in construction, and another 26,000 under review. This represents 98 percent of the target outlined in the housing plan, and represents 52,000 of the Administration's goal of creating 53,000 units of housing by 2030.
To support the growth of housing at all income levels, Mayor Walsh will double the Department of Neighborhood Development's down payment assistance program to $1 million, allowing dozens of middle-class families to access zero-interest loans to cover down payments.
In addition, through the Office of Housing Stability, which aims to support renters in housing crisis, preserve tenancy and prevent displacement, Mayor Walsh is proposing investments to expand the capacity and effectiveness, including:
$150,000 for flexible financial assistance for low and moderate income households facing a housing crisis who are not eligible for existing programs;
$125,000 for expanded legal representation and stabilization services for renters facing eviction in Housing Court and District Court;
$35,000 increase for the Emergency Housing Assistance Program to assist residents displaced by fire, condemnation, natural disaster and other events;
Funding for an additional case manager to support renters facing housing crisis; and additional staff at the Elderly Commission to support tenant or home-owning seniors with their housing needs.
Health, Safety and Wellness for a Growing City
Mayor Walsh recognizes that a growing city needs to have robust public safety services. To that end, the FY19 budget will further invest in the Boston Police Department's ongoing work in strengthening community relationships and prevention programs, securing a force reflective of the communities in which it serves, providing supports to reduce the effects of trauma and recidivism, and keeping residents safe and healthy in all neighborhoods across the city. In FY19, public safety costs are rising by 4 percent in FY19, and will go towards investments including:
Growing the size of the police force by 30 officers to reach a total of over 2,210 officers;
Building on the continued success of recruiting a diverse police cadet class in FY18, another cadet class of 20 will be added in spring 2019;
Setting aside $2 million towards a phase-in of police worn body cameras, pending the results of findings from the final report by Northeastern University;
Investing in technological advancements including mobile devices to officers not assigned one, security upgrades for evidence storage, and the fourth year of the department wide $56 million radio replacement program.
With the goal of reducing response times for emergency medical services, the FY19 budget also proposes to increase the number of EMTs and ambulances to meet the current demand for services. EMS responds to more than 126,000 incidents per year, a 20 percent increase over the past 10 years. In the budget this year, Mayor Walsh will invest in:
20 new EMTs, bringing the total uniformed force to nearly 400 citywide;
Eight replacement ambulances to support the new EMTs;
"As a life-long resident of the City of Boston, I am thrilled with the Mayor's intentions to invest more financial, as well as city resources to strength public safety in the City of Boston," said Pastor Gerald at the Twelfth Baptist Church. "As a leading city in the nation we must remain vigilant and on the cutting edge on issues regarding public safety for all who work and live in Boston, a world class city!"
Mayor Walsh has made investing in EMS a priority since taking office. In FY17, the Mayor added 20 new EMTs, which curbed the rising Priority 1 response times and reduced calls referred to private ambulances. In FY18, Mayor Walsh launched a Community Assistance Team that uses data to change the way EMTs are deployed to areas including the Boston Common and Recovery Road to improve patient outcomes and ambulance utilization.
In addition, Mayor Walsh is committed to outfitting the Boston Fire Department (BFD) for the 21st century to protect the health and wellness of first responders, and ensure they have the tools they need to fight fires safely. The budget proposes technology, safety and wellness investments for the Fire Department, including the replacement of six fire trucks for a total of 39 over four years, the replacement of vital radios, dual capacity routers and accompanying equipment. In addition, Mayor Walsh will allocate $500,000 towards the ongoing effort to provide industrial level cleaning for firehouses, and will set aside funding for the removal of hazardous waste from firehouses.
Building on Mayor Walsh's commitment to providing services for those in recovery, in FY19 Mayor Walsh will dedicate $1.8 million to make Boston's Engagement Center a permanent fixture. The Engagement Center is a welcoming, low-threshold drop-in space for individuals receiving services in the Newmarket Square neighborhood. It was opened in August 2017 as a six-month pilot and provides space for participants to connect with recovery support services and get connected with housing services offered by the City and partners. Since August, over 140,000 guests have accessed the Engagement Center, tapping into the resources available to improve quality of life. This vital service will continue to be a lifeline for those suffering from addiction and homelessness.
In addition, through the Imagine Boston 2030 Capital Plan, Mayor Walsh will allocate funding to rebuild the Long Island Bridge. The City will also begin a programming and planning study to evaluate the facilities currently on Long Island, and upgrades needed to provide future programming.
Transforming the Future of Transportation and Mobility
By increasing certain parking fines in FY19, the City will produce positive results by changing driver behavior and reducing congestion in high traffic areas. Updating the parking fines will also allow the City to make $5 million of investments in transportation projects and continue implementing the core initiatives of Go Boston 2030.
The $5 million in funding will go directly towards:
Investments in the Vision Zero program to build 15 neighborhood slow streets, complete 15 miles of protected bike lanes and improve 15 of the most challenging intersections in the next four years;
Better management of traffic signals to increase safety and reduce congestion;
Establishing a transit team to better coordinate with the MBTA;
Continuing the citywide campaign to bring all crosswalks, land markings and bike lanes into a state of good repair;
Improving sidewalk and roadway infrastructure through resurfacing and reconstruction;
"Increasing various parking fines that have not been adjusted since 2008 and allocating those funds to improve the City's ability to better manage its transportation services is smart public policy that will lead to more reliable commutes for the City's residents and those who work in Boston," said Sam Tyler, President of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. "In these times, the City must rely more on its own revenue sources for improved services, which is why the transportation fine increases this year make sense."
Improving City Services
The FY19 budget continues the Mayor's commitment to core city services and fully funds the day-to-day operations of critical departments like the Public Works Department (PWD). It also makes new investments to improve the safety and comfort of the City's public spaces and create more opportunities for older adults to fully engage in activities throughout the community. Next year, PWD will purchase and install 45 new benches in neighborhoods across the City. It will also invest in street sweeping equipment that will result in more efficient delivery of street sweeping services in Hyde Park. The City will also increase the funding available to plow and remove snow next year by $1.5 million, and will purchase specialized Vision Zero Equipment and a snow blowers to ensure bike lanes and other parts of the streets are full plowed. The City will also fund five additional seasonal workers to ensure Boston is a clean and welcoming for all.
Preparing for Climate Change
Since Mayor Walsh took office, he has been at the forefront of recognizing the risks of climate change, and has taken meaningful actions to help Boston prepare. In addition to the climate investments being presented in the Imagine Boston 2030 Capital Plan next week, Mayor Walsh will invest in the implementation of nation-leading city ordinances for Community Choice Aggregation and single-use bags that will lower emissions. Importantly, the City will also purchase a deployable floodwall for the East Boston Greenway to help mitigate damage related to coastal storms.
Expanding Opportunities for Prosperity, Equity and Economic Mobility
"True resilience requires us to go beyond treating the symptoms of inequality, to changing the structures that produce it," said Mayor Walsh at the July 2017 unveiling of Boston's first citywide Resilience Strategy. In keeping with this pledge, Mayor Walsh continues to invest in real solutions to address inequality in Boston.
An additional $100,000 to support a disparity study to identify and address gaps, and ultimately strengthen the City's procurement practices across all departments and provide an enhanced platform for future equity-based policies;
$20,000 for economic inclusion and equity agenda.This plan will include programmatic updates and outcome metrics for our four articulated strategic categories: Income and Employment, Business Development, Wealth Creation, and Economic Mobility and Community Stabilization.
Tripling the Digital Equity Grant Program to $100,000 to further support organizations committed to addressing digital equity gaps;
Revamping the city's sidewalk policy to address equity in sidewalk maintenance and repair by more proactively collecting data on sidewalk conditions citywide;
Increasing Access to Open Space
Building on Mayor Walsh's commitment to continue creating and maintaining high-quality parks that are accessible and equitable, through the budget, the city will take steps towards implementing Imagine Boston 2030's open space goals. In Boston, 98 percent of Bostonians live within a 10 minute walk of a park. To date, the Walsh Administration has increased the Park Department's operating funding by 5.7 million or 32 percent, and in FY19 will dedicate $17.7 million to new capital projects in Boston's parks.
Building on a similar ongoing investment starting in FY18 for a rotation program for traditional ballfields, in FY19 a new $75,000 rotating program for maintenance of synthetic turf athletic fields has been added.
An investment of $25,000 to provide maintenance of Green Infrastructure in the form of bioswales built to capture run-off storm-water in open spaces.
$78,612 to increase the capacity of its seasonal workforce, which help maintain the cleanliness of the City's parks
Investing in Arts and Culture
The City continues to integrate art into the fabric of everyday city life through groundbreaking investments highlighted in Boston Creates, the cultural plan for the city.
To support the plan, the FY19 budget will launch the second round of an artist fellowship program in response to feedback in the Boston Creates cultural process to identify new funding streams for Boston artists. To date, the Opportunity Fund grant program has received applications from 542 artists, and 125 have been awarded.
To support the Percent for the Arts program that infuses public art into capital projects, a new project manager will be hired to manage the implementation.
About Imagine Boston 2030
Mayor Walsh's FY19 continues to invest in preserving and creating a strong middle class, and creating opportunities for all those who live in Boston. The FY19 budget supports Boston's long-term plan, Imagine Boston 2030.
Imagine Boston 2030 is Boston's first citywide plan in 50 years aimed at guiding growth to support our dynamic economy and expand opportunity for all residents. The plan prioritizes inclusionary growth and puts forth a comprehensive vision to boost quality of life, equity and resilience in every neighborhood across the City. Shaped by the input of 15,000 residents who contributed their thoughts to the plan, Imagine Boston 2030 identifies five action areas to guide Boston's growth, enhancement and preservation, and is paired with a set of metrics that will evaluate progress and successes. To learn more visit, imagine.boston.gov.
For more information on the FY19 budget proposal, please visit budget.boston.gov.