About the City of Somerville Budget Process
Drafting, revising, and approving a balanced operating budget for the City of Somerville are among the most important duties of our City government. The budget and budget process are complex. This page offers an overview of how the budget process works and how it impacts residents and businesses in Somerville.
For specific details and information on the current budget, see the FY 2024 Budget section.
FY 2024 Budget
- Learn About Somerville’s Annual Budget Process at a Virtual Workshop, Tuesday, March 28, at 7 p.m. Register to attend.
- Check back here to view the proposed FY 2024 budget and additional documents as they become available.
- Past Budgets
The City of Somerville's budget process typically kicks off in February and ends with final approval of the City's spending plan with a City Council vote in June. The City's fiscal year begins on July 1 each year.
The Mayor starts the budget process by requesting preliminary budgets from departments in February. Throughout late winter and spring, there are deadlines for departments to submit projected departmental expenditures and revenue, as well as requests for additional funding. The Ballantyne administration also began a process to request budget priorities from City Councilors early in the year so that they can be considered during budget development.
In late spring, the City Council reviews fiscal trends that may impact the budget. The finance committee also holds a series of meetings usually in May and June to review and make recommendations on the budget.
The City Council typically votes on final approval for the budget in mid- to late June, ahead of the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
Preparing the City of Somerville’s annual budget is a months-long process, with the Mayor’s Office and City Council playing crucial roles.
The City of Somerville's Mayor is the City's chief executive officer. The Mayor's Office directs and oversees the preparation of the budget by working with all City departments. The City Council, as the City's legislative body, gives final approval to the budget, allowing it to be enacted at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. As part of its deliberations, the City Council submits spending priorities to the Mayor's office and reviews global trends that could impact budget projections.
State law mandates the City pass a balanced budget each year, meaning expenditures (expenses) cannot exceed estimated revenues (funds coming into the City such as taxes and fees). Like a household budget, the City budget essentially outlines how the City will spend its income (revenues) to pay for all City services from schools to trash pickup to social services and arts and culture events.
Revenue comes from several sources, including property taxes, hotel and restaurant taxes, motor vehicle excises, charges for services, license and permit fees, state and federal aid, and grants.
Expenditures include equipment, capital improvements, program supplies, contractual services, salaries and wages, employee benefits, and debt payments.
In addition to the glossary on this page, the City's ClearGov site offers a detailed glossary with all of the terms that come up in the budget and budget process.
Officials follow the City of Somerville's Financial Policies throughout the budget process, which is aimed at protecting the City's financial strength and stability and emphasizing the following best practices:
- Cash Solvency: Ensuring the City pays its bills on time.
- Budgetary Solvency: Passing a balanced budget each year.
- Long-Term Solvency: Projecting and ensuring the ability to pay future costs.
- Service Level Solvency: Making sure the City can pay for needed and desired services.
- Public Confidence: Fostering public trust and support for decisions that promote financial stability.
Between the start of the budget process until final approval by the City Council, there are several key steps along the way:
- February: Mayor requests Priorities from City departments.
- March: Level-service budgets developed (budgets with no new additions that adjust for inflation or changing costs only).
- March: City Council submits priorities to the Mayor.
- April: Departments meet with the Mayor’s staff to review budgets and any proposed changes.
- May: Budget finalized and presentation materials created and posted online.
- May: Budget submitted to City Council. Finance Committee meetings to review the budget.
- May: City Council holds Public Hearing on the budget.
- Mid- to late June: City Council votes on the budget.
The City of Somerville operates its budget from four major funds: the General Fund, Enterprise Funds, Special Revenue Funds, and Stabilization Funds. Think of these as the City's bank accounts, with the City Council appropriating from the General and Enterprise Funds.
The General Fund functions as the City's checking account. It is used to pay for most City operations. Revenue comes from a ranges of sources including real estate and personal property taxes, excise taxes, investment income, fines and forfeitures, fees and charges, as well as state and federal aid. The General Fund covers expenditures for most City departments, including the Somerville Public Schools.
Enterprise Funds are the five funds for the City of Somerville's departments that charge for their services through businesslike activity. When you pay your sewer bill, for example, the revenue goes to the Sewer Division's Enterprise Fund.
Those five funds support:
- The Sewer Division of Public Works
- The Water Division of Public Works
- The Veteran’s Memorial Ice Rink
- The Dilboy Athletic Complex
- The Ginny Smithers Pool at the Kennedy School
In addition to covering day-to-day operations, these five funds pay for the maintenance of the facilities and infrastructure they cover such as the stadium and pool or our water and sewer system. The accounting used in the budgeting of Enterprise Funds allows these departments to fund their services with the income they bring in rather than with taxes or other revenue sources.
Special Revenue Funds include all money that, by law, needs to be spent on specific purposes. For a variety of reasons, including differing fiscal years, these funds need to be kept separate from the General Fund.
- Special Revenue Funds include Revolving Funds, which allow the City to raise money for a specific service. Revolving Funds are created by statute or by law and need to be renewed by City Council each year. Currently, the City of Somerville's Revolving Funds collect revenue from the sale of City property, school grants, state and federal grants, cable franchise fees, and donations, among others.
The City of Somerville has numerous Stabilization Funds, including the Capital Stabilization Fund, which pays for capital projects such as new school buildings, park renovations, or road and mobility improvements. Another is the Rainy Day Stabilization Fund, which safeguards the City in the case of a fiscal emergency, just like a household might set aside some savings in case of a job loss or medical emergency. Other stabilization funds are reserved for specific purposes.
For a more detailed explanation and a complete list of City of Somerville Funds, visit ClearGov.
Take part in this year’s first-ever Participatory Budgeting process, where residents will decide how to spend $1 million. Residents can propose ideas for what to invest in to improve Somerville. Residents age 12 and older can vote on ideas, and the City will put the winning ideas into action. Learn more at somervillema.gov/PB.
Check back here to view additional documents as they become available.
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