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Fiscal Year 2020 budget announced by Mayor Walsh

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The budget, which was presented today, focuses on bold investments guided by equity, opportunity and investing in Boston's future. 

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today presented his Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget proposal, a plan that prioritizes investments in innovative approaches to delivering high-quality and equitable services for residents, and upholds the City's strong record of proactive fiscal management. Guided by a commitment to ensure equity and opportunity for all Boston residents, the $3.48 billion plan supports the Walsh Administration's commitment to a responsible, balanced and bold budget, with increased investments in early childhood education, affordable housing, climate preparedness, recovery services, public safety and economic opportunity.

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The FY20 budget not only strives to improve the lives of residents next year, it also proposes bold long-term investments that will realize benefits for decades and ensures that Boston remains a City of opportunity for the future.

"Boston's budget sets forward a blueprint for the values that matter: creating opportunity, ensuring equity and working towards a better Boston for all residents," said Mayor Walsh. "I'm proud our strong fiscal management will continue to allow us to invest in the future of our city, and growing our middle class. By investing in our future, we'll strengthen our city for all who live here, and for our future generations to come."  

The FY20 budget represents a $166 million increase, or five percent, over FY19, and makes strategic investments in improving the quality of life for residents of Boston. This includes new investments of $6.4 million, or 45 percent increase in City-funded housing efforts -- overall, next year Boston will spend $125 million on housing. This also includes $15 million to achieve universal, high-quality pre-Kindergarten for all four-year-olds in Boston; $4 million in walkable streets investments; and over $500,000 in expanding economic pathways for all residents.

"Our FY20 budget turns policy into action, and planning into results," said Emme Handy, Boston's Chief Financial Officer. "Through Mayor Walsh's leadership, Boston has focused on disciplined fiscal management, controlling our liabilities, and creative revenue measures that will deliver new services this year. Boston's financial health is strong and will allow us to invest in Boston's long-term prosperity."

"The operating budget and capital plan remain rooted in fiscal responsibility and ensure the City remains a good steward of public resources," said Justin Sterritt, Boston's Budget Director. "City departments continue to exhibit responsible spending, cost containment efforts, data-based decision making, proactive fiscal management and long-term planning. The City recently retained its AAA bond rating for the fifth year in a row, and this shared sense of fiscal responsibility will ensure the City maintains that rating into the future."

While the City has a growing tax revenue base, the City continues to find efficiencies and prioritizes investing in innovative solutions to provide world-class City services. The FY20 budget includes over $24 million in savings from areas like Health Insurance, Energy efficiencies and other operational savings.

High-Quality Education for All Students

There is no better reflection of Mayor Walsh's commitment to equal opportunity than the City's continued strong investment in public education. Over the past six years Boston has grown annual public education spending at the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and charter schools by over $300 million. Boston's most recent BPS budget includes $1.139 billion to support high-quality education for all BPS students, Boston's largest-ever school budget.

This overall level of investment of $1.139 billion is not only at historic levels, but represents a 25 percent increase in per-student funding, up to over $20,000 per year. Next year alone, funding for public education will grow by more than $63 million over FY19. In addition, this investment has come at a time when state aid for public schools has fallen, and 97 percent of our public education investment has come from local revenue.

This year, Mayor Walsh continues his strong commitment to creating quality public education for all with a $15 million investment in a quality pre-Kindergarten fund. The "Quality Pre-K Fund" will guarantee equitable access to free, high-quality pre-K for all 4-year-olds living in Boston within five years.

Investments in education in Boston include:

  • Free MBTA passes will be provided to all Boston students in grades 7-12. This investment in the BPS budget will increase transportation access for an additional 10,000 students in public, charter, private, and parochial schools;
  • $6 million in school-based investments, including an infusion of funds for off-track youth through the Opportunity Index, as well as additional funds to grow vocational education;
  • $2.5 million in new funds for high-need students allocated through the Opportunity Index, an innovative tool for identifying high-need students;
  • $2 million to support schools with declining enrollments;
  • New central investments include building out an early warning indicator system and expanding Naviance, a college and career preparatory tool.

Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing

The FY20 budget includes investments towards the production of new housing, preservation of existing affordable housing, and protection of households most at risk. The budget includes funding for the expansion of the Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) program by allowing the City to provide no-interest loans for income-eligible homeowners who are interested in carving out space within their homes to create smaller, independent units to rent. This program develops more naturally occurring affordable housing options while creating rental income for homeowners.

In an effort to preserve Boston's housing stock while providing economic opportunities for residents and temporary accommodations for visitors, Mayor Walsh signed an ordinance in 2018 establishing guidelines to better track and regulate short-term rentals in the City of Boston. In his FY20 budget proposal, Mayor Walsh is allocating new funds to the Boston's Inspectional Services Department for two additional staff members to regulate short-term rentals. These inspectors will assist with the enforcement of the regulations which went into effect on January 1, 2019.

The FY20 budget includes funding to expand the Intergenerational Homeshare Program. Launched as a pilot in 2017 as a collaboration between the Age Strong Commission and the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab, the program leverages technology to match older adults with an extra room with a responsible young person looking for affordable rent. In addition, the FY20 budget will fund a housing court navigator to greet and direct families and individuals facing eviction to appropriate onsite services.  

Ending Chronic and Youth Homelessness

Mayor Walsh's FY20 budget includes $4 million to support the creation of approximately 50 new units of permanent supportive housing each year, which combines subsidized rental housing with individualized support services so that people can receive the assistance they need to stay housed. It also includes $1 million to provide connections to employment, rental assistance, and supportive services for youth, building on the City's action plan to support young Bostonians experiencing homelessness.

In addition, the FY20 budget includes an investment that will fund four formerly homeless individuals to work as peer navigators across shelters in Boston connecting individuals currently experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent housing pathways. Peer housing navigators will help clients with their housing applications, gathering documentation needed for housing, and mentoring others as they transition from homelessness to housing.

The budget also includes an expansion in outreach services to provide assessment, crisis intervention, and intensive case management services to unsheltered individuals drawn to the spaces and resources of the Boston Public Library (BPL). The proposed new capacity will enable additional interactions at branch locations, which could include the South End, West End, Uphams Corner, and Dudley.

Health, Safety and Wellness for a Growing City

Mayor Walsh recognizes that a growing city needs to have robust, effective and accountable public safety services and a force reflective of the communities in which it serves. To that end, the FY20 budget includes funds to diversify recruitment efforts at the Boston Police Department (BPD), Boston Fire Department (BFD) and Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The FY20 budget will further invest in BPD's ongoing work in strengthening community relations and prevention programs by supporting the new Community Engagement Bureau, funding social workers previously funded by external grants, and growing the size of the police recruit class to 120, taking the City's police force to almost 2,230 officers. The FY20 budget will also continue to fund the police-worn body camera program, first introduced in the FY19 budget with staffing and equipment purchases.

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. In anticipation of mew authorization under state law, the FY20 budget will fund a new fire cadet class to improve diversity that has proven successful at the Police Department.

The FY20 budget includes the addition of another EMS Community Assistance Team or Squad 80 which was first introduced two years ago to reduce ambulance response times. The Community Assistance Team is a non-transport squad who responds to incident call types with low frequency of transport. In its first year of operation, Squad 80 has positively impacted ambulance availability, responding to 2,048 clinical incidents that did not result in a transport and canceling BLS and/or ALS ambulances a total of 442 times, for incidents that did not require patient transport. In addition to freeing up ambulances for Priority 1 calls, the team assists individuals in connecting to city services, including shelters and recovery programs.

Building on Mayor Walsh's commitment to providing services for those facing substance use disorder, in FY20 the City will grow the Mayor's Office of Recovery Services by 35 percent so that they can more effectively provide support to those in need of services. This investment will include new staff, new technology and enhanced citywide cleanup efforts. The FY20 budget will allow for the installment of 10 new sharp containers across the City where people can dispose of their used syringes safely.

In response to an increase in new HIV diagnoses in the region, Boston will increase prevention and outreach efforts around HIV, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Efforts include but are not limited to prevention, testing, and community engagement. This City funding is in addition to a $15 million grant the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) received to fund core medical and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Protecting our Environment

Mayor Walsh has been at the forefront of recognizing and addressing the risks of climate change, and protecting our environment. During Mayor Walsh's time in office, Boston has retained its title as the most "efficient city in the United States," as named by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

In 2018, Mayor Walsh pledged that 10 percent of new revenue in the capital budget would go towards climate resilience. In addition to the climate investments being presented in the Capital Plan in the coming weeks, Mayor Walsh in his FY20 budget proposal will invest in additional staff to support Boston's climate plans and goals, including a Climate Preparedness Manager, Building Energy & Resilience Consultant, Archaeology Lab Manager, and more. In addition, the FY20 budget will invest $460,000 to fund initial recommendations of the forthcoming Zero Waste Report that supports the goal of reducing, repairing and reusing all materials in the City. In an effort to increase and improve our tree canopy, the budget also sets aside $100,000 for urban forestry.

These investments build on the Mayor's transformative plan, Resilient Boston Harbor, that lays out strategies along Boston's 47-mile shoreline to increase access and open space along the waterfront while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.

Transforming the Future of Mobility

Our economic strength is dependent on our ability to move people around our city to businesses, jobs and homes.

Building on Boston's long-term transportation plan, Go Boston 2030, the FY20 budget utilizes new revenue to make targeted investments in public space and improved mobility, including:

  • $2 million for bike infrastructure -- $1 million will go towards accelerating the design and construction of Boston's major bike corridors, including extending bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue to the Columbia Road and the Columbus Avenue bike lanes north to Downtown Boston and $1 million will be used to accelerate the expansion of bike share infrastructure to outer neighborhoods in order to improve accessibility and reach the City's goal of 268 stations by 2022.
  • $4 million to strengthen Boston's Walkable Streets programs, which equitably reconstructs sidewalks throughout Boston.
  • $8 million to improve the state of good repair on the City's bridges, roads, sidewalks and lane markings.

Expanding Opportunities for Prosperity and Equity

The citywide resilience strategy aims to ensure every resident can reach their full potential regardless of their background, and to remove the barriers that hinder Bostonians from having access to opportunities. To that end, the City is investing in areas of equity and prosperity.

At the Office of Economic Development, the City is investing in $140,000 to support the Boston Economic Development Center, $135,000 to support mobile businesses, with an initial focus on food trucks, and $125,000 in additional resources for the office of Emerging Industries.

In addition, the City is investing to promote the  2020 U.S. Census and ensure every Bostonian is counted. This investment will support Boston's outreach efforts by providing grants to community-based organizations and more support to City departments, in addition to a FY19 investment of dedicated staffing resources.  

The FY20 Budget for the first time includes funds dedicated for the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, a public-private partnership launched by Mayor Walsh in 2017 with the goal of strengthening the Boston's capacity to protect and defend its many immigrant communities, refugees, and temporary status holders, by increasing education and access to legal services. City funds in this years budget are estimated to pay counsel for approximately 30 cases.

Investing in Arts and Culture

The City continues to introduce more art into the fabric of city life through groundbreaking investments highlighted in Boston Creates, the Mayor's cultural plan for the city. In FY20, the City will invest $200,000 in sustaining key grant making programs for individual artists through the Opportunity Fund, the Artist Fellowship Award, and an additional $250,000 for the Boston Artist in Residence Program, which infuses art into city departments and programs.

To support a growing and robust Arts & Culture office, the City will invest operating funds to cover the cost of grants that had expired for the positions of Artist Resource Manager and Communications Director. These investments and the new City-funded grants will create a permanent long-lasting home for arts funding.

Building on the robust capital work that has been underway at the Boston Public Library and its branches, the FY20 budget will invest an additional $400,000 to expand access to print and digital resources, expanding access to the material and reducing wait times. In addition to an increase in resources, the Library will increase youth and teen programs by adding additional librarians, and will increase funds for security across the branches.

About Imagine Boston 2030

Mayor Walsh's FY20 continues to invest in preserving and creating a strong middle class, and creating opportunities for all those who live in Boston. The FY20 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 FY20 budget proposal, please visit budget.boston.gov.

FY20 Budget