Mayor Ballantyne Releases First Budget: Foundations for Progress

Proposed FY23 budget includes largest increase in history for Somerville Public Schools; repurposes nearly $8.3 million in GLX funds for affordable housing; makes first ever $1 million investment in participatory budgeting; and creates new Office of Accou

On Tuesday, May 31, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne submitted Somerville’s FY23 budget proposal, a $309 million budget that makes key investments in public education, affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and quality of life issues in line with this year’s budget theme of “A Foundation for Progress.” 

“This budget is the result of deep community engagement, collaboration with the City Council, and innovative thinking by City staff,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “Equity is the cornerstone of this budget, and I could not be more proud of the proposal that we have put together. This budget invests in our youth, improves delivery of daily services to residents, and makes foundational investments in our City systems that will allow us to successfully tackle the most pressing issues facing residents.” 

Somerville Public Schools and School Infrastructure 

Mayor Ballantyne’s FY23 budget proposes a historic $8.4 million, or 10%, increase in funding for Somerville Public Schools (SPS). This is the largest single increase in the history of SPS. This investment will help ensure that all students, particularly low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities, have access to a high-quality and well-rounded education. SPS will prioritize using funds for mental health supports for all students, special education, and pay equity for paraprofessionals. 

In addition, the City will invest $850,000 in improving school buildings, including the Brown School and Winter Hill School. Of these funds, $550,000 will go toward a districtwide enrollment and space needs study to develop a capital investment plan. The other $300,000 will fund new HVAC equipment and controls systems in schools across the city.  

Affordable Housing Acquisition 

Opening the Union Square Branch of the MBTA Green Line Extension earlier this year was a transportation-justice milestone for residents of Somerville and across the region. To help ensure the city stays on the path of inclusive growth, this budget repurposes nearly $8.3 million in funds previously allocated for the Green Line Extension to the Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing acquisition and construction. The Green Line Extension came in under budget, and the current housing crisis calls for a significant investment in creating a substantial affordable housing stock in Somerville.  

New Office of Accountability, Transparency, and Access

To help the City increase transparency in local government, this budget includes a new Office of Accountability, Transparency, and Access (OATA). Civic engagement and participation is rapidly shifting in an increasingly digital landscape, and this office will help ensure transparent and responsive government. As its first step, OATA will conduct a needs assessment of accountability, transparency, and access across the City. This office will incorporate the key functions that create a transparent government and uphold ethical governance for the residents of Somerville. 

Participatory Budgeting 

Another historic investment in this budget includes setting aside $1 million for participatory budgeting. This investment will allow community members to propose and vote on priority projects for funding in future budgets. Residents and community-based organizations will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in a new way as part of the City’s municipal budget process.   

Additional FY23 Budget Highlights 

The FY23 budget also includes:  

  • $100,000 for development of a pollinator action plan, which will aim to identify interventions that create the best habitat for Somerville-specific pollinators and wildlife  
  • More than $400,000 for a mobility infrastructure maintenance crew within the Department of Public Works to maintain the City’s growing mobility infrastructure, including community paths, quick-build bike infrastructure, neighborways, and permanent separated bike facilities  
  • Creation of a new Chief Administrative Officer position, who will increase the efficiency of internal systems that will allow City workers to focus on providing high-quality services  
  • Creation of an Arts Space Planner position within the Arts Council to strategically preserve existing arts spaces and generate new arts and cultural spaces across the city  
  • Creation of a Manager of Mental Health Services position, which will support frontline mental health staff  
  • A new Director of Youth Services role, which will support youth priorities and services across City government  
  • Increasing funding for the City’s LGBTQ+ Services Coordinator so that it is a full-time position   
  • Permanent funding for a SomerBaby Home Visitor role, who will connect families with new babies to key City services to support their children from day one   
  • $60,000 for an expansion of SMART System Rodent Control to help mitigate rodent activity in Somerville   
  • $75,000 for the development of a Zero Waste program to integrate conventional aspects of solid waste management with new program and statewide initiatives, including composting   
  • Funding for a Clean, Green Somerville initiative that will create an energy efficiency program to assist Somerville property owners make comprehensive energy-saving improvements to their properties   
  • Two new staff positions in the Office of Housing Stability that will help residents facing housing insecurity navigate and access resources to help them stay in their homes    
  • Funding for a new Veterans Benefits Administrator, who will help veterans access financial benefits, mental health supports, housing resources, and education and job opportunities  
  • A full-time Spanish-Speaking Case Manager in the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs to connect Spanish-speaking residents and business owners with financial assistance, housing assistance, food assistance, and other supports the City has to offer   
  • The creation of a Small Business Liaison in the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD) to support small businesses as they apply for permits  
  • Three new positions in the Inspectional Services Department, including a liaison who will directly support residents and businesses in navigating the permitting process, in partnership with the OSPCD liaison role  

Learn More, Attend Public Hearing 

The Mayor will present the FY23 budget to the City Council on Thursday, June 2, at 6 p.m. The City Council will hold a Budget Public Hearing on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. To see the proposed FY23 budget, watch the Mayor’s presentation, and participate in the public hearing, go to somervillema.gov/fy23budget.