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Mayor Ballantyne Submits FY25 Budget

Budget delivers major investments in schools and workforce equity, Builds resources for core services, social progress, and most vulnerable

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne’s proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget plan puts schools and worker equity front and center and delivers strong supports for core services, social progress, and the most vulnerable. From reading and math interventionists and embedded counselors for the schools to resources for alternative response, homelessness, affordable housing, seniors, and a shift to rodenticide-free rodent control, the carefully crafted $360M budget makes strategic strides on community priorities amid a tighter funding year. The budget will be formally submitted to the City Council on Thursday, May 30.  


Strengthening our schools 
Avoiding regional trends toward school cuts and layoffs, the City-supported school budget will add more than 36 net full-time-equivalent school positions, including 26.6 that would have been lost to expiring federal pandemic funding. It also funds a range of critical educational investments ranging from core academics to mental health supports. In total, the FY23, FY24, and proposed FY25 school budgets would combine to grow school funding by 27% over the three years. 

“As our youth continue to climb back from profound pandemic impacts and prepare for their futures, we must provide the resources they need. That includes comprehensive core learning, enrichment, out-of-school time activities, and family, health, and mental health supports that will best help them thrive, develop, learn, and prepare for success. To do this, the schools, School Committee, and Administration, worked to dedicate resources to support our children from cradle to career and college readiness,” said Mayor Ballantyne.  

Advancing worker equity, delivering on community priorities
Meanwhile, the City budget addresses pressing needs for worker equity, recruitment, and retention including funding for union contracts, closing gender gaps, and ensuring fair and competitive wages. The budget is also designed to deliver strong support for both core services (roads, parks, waste removal, etc.) and efforts to advance the community’s goals for progress such as affordable housing, homelessness supports, senior programs, alternative response, climate action, community health, ADA advancements, and more.  

“I am proud to submit a budget that squarely reflects our community’s values and our clear and constant goal: to create a thriving, more equitable Somerville today and for generations to come,” said Ballantyne. “To achieve that across the board, we must shore up the bedrock resource that makes all City functions possible: our workers. We must pay our union and non-union workers fairly and equitably. It is both the right thing to do, and it makes good economic sense. Worker turnover and vacancies are costly and harm service delivery. And in Somerville, we are striving to lead the way in addressing pay gaps -- including gender gaps. We cannot accept unequal pay for equal work, and this budget is designed to take that on.” 

 

Strong growth and AAA bond rating deliver progress despite new challenges
The budget does however reflect a changing economic environment. Somerville’s strong local economy will spare the City from the needed cuts and layoffs other communities are weighing. But resourceful budgeting and tough decisions were still required due to rising fixed costs-- such as a record increase in health insurance rates--and an uncertain economic forecast.  

Somerville is still producing enviable, record new growth for a city of its size, with $13M projected for the coming fiscal year. The City also recently had its AAA bond rating reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s. This top bond rating is beneficial because it lowers the interest fees charged to the City and that will save tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. But as the commercial real estate market slows, construction related fees and tax revenues are projected to decline. State tax law changes are also expected to lower local revenue.   

“Sometimes going to community meetings can leave you wondering if you’re making an impact. Well, the residents and staff who put in the time to create our SomerVision Plan goals made a huge difference by prioritizing community-driven development to create local revenues. Between those plans, the City delivering on them, and our strong and careful financial management, we are set up to keep advancing our services and goals despite adjusting to new challenges this year,” said Ballantyne. 

 

Building on and strengthening prior investments 
To maintain progress with fewer new large investments, the FY25 budget carries forward and strategically strengthens the new staff and resources that the Ballantyne administration made in the prior two years. 

The fiscal year 2023 and 2024 budgets added new resources – in some cases unprecedented new resources, such as 16 new Health and Human Service staffers. Other investments focused on the schools, affordable housing resources and initiatives, infrastructure maintenance and planning, social workers and services, mobility and transportation access, sustainability, community health, facilities management, youth and out-of-school-time programing, inspectional services, ADA compliance, senior services, street and park trees, language justice, green building management, and many other needs and community priorities. 

The proposed FY25 budget not only maintains the deep investments that were made over the past two years with the support and advocacy of the Council. It bolsters those investments with inflation adjustments and limited tactical new investments so that these resources and staff can continue to propel the community forward. Beyond this, a summary of proposed targeted but limited new investments is below. Some investments are proposed as part of the budget. In order to help close a budget gap, others are funded outside the budget by strategic use of stabilization and reserve funds. 


Investing to Deliver Core Services and Advance Progress 

Proposed Positions: 

  • A Public Safety for All Initiative Program Manager to advance Public Safety for All initiatives including alternative emergency response, anti-violence, civilian oversight, and accountability efforts (funded off budget) 
  • A Homelessness Coordinator to address issues affecting our unhoused residents  
  • A conversion of a half-time Deputy Director for the Office of Housing Stability to full-time to expand services to residents at risk of displacement and advance affordable housing initiatives and policies  
  • A Wage Theft Coordinator championed by the City Council to help ensure local workers are fully compensated 
  • A DPW Facilities Coordinator to maintain our assets 
  • A Construction Liaison & Design Manager to bolster capacity and engagement for infrastructure management, upgrades, and planning  
  • A Civilian Crossing Guard Supervisor, to support safe routes to school  
  • Make the grant-funded Community Health Worker Manager a permanent position to support the health needs of vulnerable community members  
  • A part-time IT Specialist to expand management and service capacity for City computer systems

Proposed Programming and Services: 

  • Outfit and staffing of new Assembly Row fire station 
  • Increased Teen Center and Recreation Dept. part-time staffing and programming funds to offer more out-of-school time options 
  • A transition away from rodenticide in City and School buildings to safer approaches to rodent control 
  • A contract to maintain our green stormwater infrastructure that supports our climate action goals and reduces flooding impacts 
  • A transition of the Taxi to Health program and the Council on Aging multicultural performance and lunch series off of expiring pandemic relief funding (ARPA) and onto the City budget to provide needed services and enrichment for our seniors and persons with disabilities 
  • A curbside composting pilot to advance climate action goals for energy efficient waste management (funded off budget) 
  • Roof repairs and Central Library carpet replacement (funded off budget) 
  • Additional funding for the Affordable Housing Fund (AHTF): $3.3M addition to the fund bringing it’s total to nearly $30M 
  • Funding for Human Resources FMLA services management to best support this federal requirement  
  • Customer-centric training for public-facing staff to help ensure our residents receive accurate, courteous, and efficient customer service  


Strengthening our financial stability
And finally, to gird the community for changing economic winds and to close a $3.2 million dollar budget gap created by lower revenue projections, the City made careful, tactical use of reserves. Most notably, we used $1.8 million dollars of reserves to mitigate debt service costs, as planned in the FY23 Capital Investment Plan. 

Learn More, Watch Mayor's Budget Presentation, Attend Public Hearing 

  • The Mayor will present the FY25 budget to the City Council on Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m.  
  • The City Council will hold a Budget Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 4, at 6 p.m. 
  • The public may also attend in person in the City Council's Chambers at Somerville City Hall (93 Highland Ave.)  
  • To read the Mayor’s budget letter, see the proposed FY25 budget, watch the Mayor’s presentation, and participate in the public hearing, go to somervillema.gov/budget.
     

 


Persons with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication (i.e., CART, ASL), written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures to access the programs, activities, and meetings of the City of Somerville should please contact Adrienne Pomeroy in advance at 617-625-6600 x 2059 or apomeroy@somervillema.gov.  

Efforts to secure interpretation into any language will be made upon advance request (at least seven days in advance) by contacting the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs at somervillema.gov/ContactSomerViva or calling 311 at 617-666-3311.  

This event will be videotaped by the City’s GovTV team. Watch it on-demand with optional closed-captioning (select the CC icon) on YouTube.com/SomervilleCityTV. Or watch on cable TV at GovTV Comcast Ch. 22 and GovTV Astound (RCN) Ch. 13 & 613.  Videos generally post within one business day of recording. 

 

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