Somerville Enters New Fiscal Year with Historic Investments Planned for Youth, Affordable Housing, Sustainability, & More

$293 million FY23 budget delivers on urgent needs and lays foundation for longer-term progress across all departments 
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Major investments include largest increase in history for Somerville Public Schools, nearly $8.3 million for affordable housing, and $1 million for participatory budgeting  

The City of Somerville is entering the new fiscal year with an ambitious slate of funding priorities for the next 12 months and beyond. In late June, the Somerville City Council passed a $293 million Fiscal Year 2023 budget, delivering on Mayor Katjana Ballantyne’s historic investment in Somerville Public Schools and transformative programs supporting youth, affordable housing, climate resilience, and quality of life improvements. The budget also seeks to improve City systems and services that undergird all municipal operations, laying a foundation for a more inclusive, accessible government and stronger, more equitable Somerville.   

“This budget charts a course not just for the year ahead, but for long-term progress to improve the lives of all Somerville residents,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “We are putting our equity goals into practice, as reflected in our funding priorities and in our collaborative approach to budgeting this year and in the future. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the City Council for their partnership on this budget, their thoughtful questions, and their due diligence on behalf of our community. I’m excited to get this work started.”  

Historic Investment in Schools & Youth  

The hallmark of this year’s budget is a record-high 10 percent increase in funding for public schools, students, and Somerville youth. The City will invest an additional $8.4 million in the Somerville Public Schools budget to 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. Funds will go toward urgent mental health and social-emotional wellness resources, special education, and pay equity for paraprofessionals. In addition, the City will invest $850,000 to make critical improvements to school buildings, including the Brown School and Winter Hill School. The FY23 budget also nearly doubles funding for the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program and creates a new Director of Youth Services position to oversee youth-focused policies and services across all departments.  

$8.3 Million for Affordable Housing  

Another cornerstone of this budget is affordable housing. Nearly $8.3 million from the Green Line Extension (GLX) Stabilization Fund, no longer needed for GLX, has been reallocated to the Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing acquisition. Typically, funds are committed by the Trust after properties have been purchased and development plans are underway, but this investment will enable affordable housing partners to buy land or buildings quickly in the fast-moving Somerville market, then hold them while working to execute new affordable housing development on these sites.  

First Ever Investment in Participatory Budgeting  

For the first time in Somerville, a historic $1 million has been dedicated 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. The bulk will be directly allocated by Somerville residents, with a small amount going toward setting up and administering the program.   

Other major investments include: 

A Clean, Green Somerville  

  • A total of $1.25 million to expand and maintain Somerville’s tree canopy  
  • An infusion of $300,000 to promote energy efficiency in City buildings   
  • $100,000 for the creation of an Urban Pollinator Action Plan to support Somerville-specific pollinators and wildlife   
  • $75,000 for the development of a Zero Waste Program to integrate conventional aspects of solid waste management with other initiatives, including composting   
  • A Program Manager to administer the new Clean Green Energy Efficiency Rehab Program, which will assist eligible property owners in making comprehensive energy-saving improvements to their properties  
  • A Sustainability Planner, who will review new and renovated development under state and local codes  
  • An Ecosystem Restorative Planner, who will ensure that open spaces generated by private development contribute to citywide ecosystem goals  

Improved City Systems & Services  

  • A new Chief Administrative Officer, who will oversee day-to-day City operations, work to ensure efficient, high-quality services, and free up staff to focus on their core duties  
  • A new Web Services Division to improve the content, functionality, and accessibility of the City’s website, one of the most-used public resources  
  • Two IT Support Specialists to strengthen underlying systems and better meet the daily needs of residents  
  • Two new Human Resources staff to support efficient, effective recruitment and implement modern HR software  
  • A Small Business Liaison to support small businesses as they apply for permits    
  • Software upgrades for Planning & Zoning to show zoning regulations on a parcel-by-parcel basis 

Equity at the Core  

  • Two new roles in the Office of Housing Stability to help residents facing housing insecurity navigate and obtain resources to help them stay in their homes   
  • A Racial and Social Justice Investigator, who will investigate concerns related to hate, bias, discrimination, and other injustices such as wage theft or intimidation   
  • A full-time LGBTQ+ Coordinator role, expanded from its current part-time status, due in part to data showing the COVID-19 pandemic’s pronounced impact on members of Somerville’s LGBTQ+ community  
  • A Spanish-Speaking Case Manager, who will connect Spanish-speaking residents and business owners with City resources  
  • Expanded translation and interpretation services while the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs develops a comprehensive five-year Language Access Plan   
  • Funding for a strategic plan for the Somerville Commission on Women  
  • An Accessibility Study for 1 Franey Road, which houses DPW and other departments, and continues to be an accessibility challenge  
  • As the City continues its journey and community engagement around reimagining public safety, the Mayor’s Office will return to the City Council with proposals and requests for additional funds. 

Public Health & Wellbeing   

  • New public health positions to continue to fight COVID-19 and plan for the pandemic’s long-term impacts  
  • An expanded Emergency Management department for emergency response and preparation   
  • A Manager of Mental Health Services to augment and support frontline mental health staff  
  • An additional $500,000 earmarked for a supervised consumption site as the City awaits the results of a community engaged process and continues to plan and engage stakeholders  
  • A SomerBaby Home Visitor, who will connect families with new babies to key City services to support their children from Day One     
  • A Veterans Benefits Administrator, who will help veterans access financial benefits, mental health supports, housing resources, and education and job opportunities   

Livability & Connected Communities  

  • $1.8 million in stabilization funds for street reconstruction and traffic safety intervention to advance the City's Vision Zero Action Plan   
  • More than $400,000 for a mobility infrastructure maintenance crew to maintain community paths, quick-build bike infrastructure, neighborways, and permanent separated bike facilities    
  • Continued funding to install protected bicycle facilities, accessible sidewalks, raised crosswalks, speed humps, refuge islands, and curb extensions on College Avenue, Holland Street, Pearl Street, Cross Street, Temple Street, Franklin Street, and other key locations across the city  
  • Expansion of the SMART System rodent control program  
  • An Arts Space Planner within the Arts Council to strategically preserve existing arts spaces and generate new arts and cultural spaces across the city    
  • Three Inspectional Services positions, including a liaison to guide residents and businesses through the permitting process, an operations manager, and an electrical inspector  
  • Continued funding to advance infrastructure improvement projects to reduce flooding, mitigate combined sewer overflows, and improve water quality  
  • Enhancement of educational, social, and daily living programs to meet the needs of Somerville's older adult population 

To learn more about the budget and plans for the year ahead, go to somervillema.gov/fy23budget