Notice about ballot question on proposed City Charter amendment
Dear Boston Voter,
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Boston voters will be presented with a ballot question concerning a Proposed Charter Amendment. This informational mailing provides you with the text of the binding question, which will appear on the ballot at the regular Municipal Election. It also sets forth the language of the proposed Amended City Charter language, which will not appear on your ballot but will become part of the City Charter if the question passes.
The question as it will appear on your ballot:
QUESTION 1 (Binding)
Shall this city approve the charter amendment proposed by the city council summarized below?
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT
The proposed amendment to the Boston City Charter would change the City of Boston’s budget process in several ways.
Under the proposed amendment, the Mayor and City Council would hold budgetary powers together, with the power to modify and amend appropriation orders. As is the case now, under the amendment only the Mayor may initially submit a budget or appropriation order. Currently, the City Council can adopt or reject a budget, or reduce specific items in a budget.
Under the proposed amendment, the City Council would have the ability to amend the budget by reallocating funds among existing or new line items. The total amount of the City Council’s amended version of the budget, however, could not exceed the total amount of the budget proposed by the Mayor. The Mayor could accept or reject the City Council’s version of the budget, or amend any line item in the City Council’s version of the budget. The City Council would have the ability to override the Mayor’s veto or amendments by a two-thirds vote. In addition, the Mayor and City Council would also be able to amend the Boston Public School budget, subject to existing laws providing that only the Boston School Committee may originate a school budget or allocate spending within a school budget.
The proposed amendment also requires the City Council and Mayor to create by ordinance an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting, including an external oversight board, to further public engagement with public spending. Under the proposed amendment, the office could create and oversee an equitable and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents. The structure of the office and oversight board, and the binding decision-making process on the budget, would be described in the future ordinance enacted by the City Council and Mayor.
End of question as it will appear on the ballot.
The text of the amendment proposed to the City Charter, which is the subject of Question 1, is set forth here:
Creation and Approval of the Municipal Budget. The mayor and city council of the City of Boston shall hold budgetary powers together, with the power to modify in whole or in part an appropriation order or an item within an appropriation order, amend the budget for Boston Public Schools consistent with the Acts of 1936, c. 224, s.2, amended by Acts of 1986, c. 701, s. 5, and further amended by Acts of 1987, c. 613, s. 2 [section 75] of this charter, clarify budgetary procedures and take such other actions as are necessary to amend, approve or disapprove the annual budget for the City, excepting the powers to originate an appropriation order, which shall be reserved for the mayor. To further public engagement and democratic involvement in city spending, the City of Boston shall create by City ordinance an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting with an external oversight board, to create and oversee an equitable and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents by Fiscal Year 2024, consistent with G.L. c. 44, § 53.
The mayor, not later than the second Wednesday in April of each year, shall submit to the city council the annual budget of the current expenses of the city and county for the forthcoming fiscal year, and the mayor may submit thereafter such supplementary appropriation orders as they may deem necessary. Not later than the second Wednesday in June, the city council shall take definite action on the annual budget, by adopting, amending or rejecting it, provided that the amended version shall not be for a higher total budget than originally proposed. In the event of their failure to act on a budget submitted by the mayor, the items and the appropriation orders in the budget as recommended by the mayor shall be in effect as if formally adopted by the city council and approved by the mayor. The mayor shall have seven days from the time of a budgetary vote of the council to approve or return said budget to the council, and in the event of the failure of the mayor to act on a budget approved by the council, the budget shall be in effect as approved by the council.
The mayor may modify a budget approved by the council by returning it to said council with amendments to any line item provided that a vote of two-thirds of the council shall be sufficient to override any budgetary amendments, in whole or in part, or an overall budgetary veto by the mayor. It shall be the duty of the city and the county officials when requested by the mayor, to submit to the mayor forthwith in such detail as the mayor may require estimates for the next fiscal year of the expenditures of the department or office under their charge, which estimates shall be transmitted to the city council; provided, however, that the mayor shall neither submit, nor thereafter reduce, the appropriations for the city council at or to a level below that which existed for the previous fiscal year, nor shall the city council reduce the appropriations for the mayor’s office below that which existed for the previous fiscal year.