Mayor Martin J. Walsh on June 15 resubmitted his Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which builds on the Walsh Administration’s record of presenting a balanced, sustainable and proactive budget that invests in the needs of our growing city, while also taking into into account the economic impact COVID-19 has had on City revenue. The $3.61 billion recommended budget represents an increase of $119 million, or 3.4 percent over the FY20 budget, and the resubmission follows over 30 City Council hearings that helped identify opportunities for further targeted investments and cost-savings.
In this budget resubmission, the City has accounted for a projected $65 million in revenue loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, $30 million of which was initially accounted for in the Mayor’s original budget proposal in April. Despite this lost revenue, and as a result of six consecutive years of proactive fiscal management that has positioned the City of Boston to continue investing in core city services and resident needs at a time of global economic uncertainty, the budget resubmission affirms Mayor Walsh’s historic commitment made in his State of the City address in education and housing.
Through those commitments, the City will allocate $80 million in new funding for the Boston Public Schools to both meet the challenges of COVID-19 and work towards closing achievement and opportunity gaps. This budget marks the first year of the Mayor’s $100 million commitment to new revenue for direct classroom funding, over and above cost increases. This funding will reach every school in the Boston Public Schools district, and will begin with intense support for underperforming schools.
The budget also protects Mayor Walsh’s unprecedented commitment of $500 million over five years to create thousands of homes all across our city that will be affordable to residents at a range of income levels.
The FY21 budget fulfills the first year of the Mayor’s commitment of City resources with an $18 million investment in new operating and capital fundings. In the first year of this new housing investment, the City is dedicating new funds to create affordable homeownership opportunities, preserve and generate affordable rental opportunities including Boston’s first City-funded rental voucher program.
“With this budget, we have an opportunity to seize the moment that is before us to make investments that are grounded in equity, inclusion and that are intentional about directing funding to places where we know it will have the greatest impact in benefitting our residents,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud that thanks to years of careful fiscal stewardship, we are able to continue making smart and strategic investments at a time when many residents need it most. I believe that with responsible fiscal planning, with investments in the equity, health and wellbeing of our residents, and with our spirit of courage and collaboration, we will emerge together from these crises stronger and more resilient than before.”
As part of his budget resubmission, Mayor Walsh will reallocate 20% or $12 million of the Boston Police Department’s overtime budget to make a significant investment in equity and inclusion across the City. These investments include:
• $3 million for the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to begin implementation of the eight strategies outlined in Boston’s declaration of racism as a public health crisis,
• $1 million to support trauma teams and counseling services at the Boston Public Health Commission
• $2 million in new funding for community based programs and supports through City departments, such as violence intervention grants, youth programming, language and food access, Immigrant Advancement, the Age Strong Commission and the Human Rights Commission,
• $2 million for additional public mental health services through a partnership between the Boston Police Department and Boston Medical Center Emergency Services Program or BEST,
• $2 million to support economic development initiatives to support minority and women owned businesses and;
• $2 million to provide additional housing supports and youth homelessness programs.
While the City has a growing tax revenue base, the City also continues to find efficiencies and prioritizes investing in innovative solutions to provide world-class City services. The FY21 budget resubmission includes an additional $35 million in cost-saving measures across City departments through the implementation of a hiring freeze on non-essential vacant positions for six months, revisions to fixed costs like debt service, non-personal reductions and a revised snow removal appropriations based on updated projections for average actual spending. All told, the City has identified and closed a $65 million budget gap amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while prioritizing bold investments and maintaining vital city services for residents.
For the sixth consecutive year, the City of Boston has received a AAA bond rating, reflecting the city’s strong fiscal management and stable financial position. The City of Boston recently was named by Moody’s as one of the best prepared cities to handle a national recession.
As part of his budget resubmission, Mayor Walsh is recommending the adoption of a Boston Public Schools budget of $1.26 billion, representing an $80 million or 7% increase over last year’s budget. While this budget marks the largest proposed BPS budget in the city’s history, it is one that makes targeted investments in underperforming schools and has a baseline of equity across all investments. Public education spending remains over 40% of the City budget; education spending is up over $440 million on an annual basis since FY14; and per-pupil spending at BPS will approach $22,000, more than a 30% increase over the past six years.
As Boston vigilantly manages COVID-19 in our community, resources are embedded in all City departments in FY21 to continue the robust response and to keep our residents healthy and safe. Ensuring a well-funded Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is especially vital to maintain this response and the FY21 budget includes a $13 million increase, and over $106 million total for BPHC. This level of investment will ensure a fully funded BPHC, Emergency Medical Service and Office of Recovery Services for next year, continue to fight the effects of COVID-19 and fund the first costs associated with the Mayor’s recent declaration of racism as a public health crisis.
Mayor Walsh’s FY21 budget continues to invest in preserving and creating a strong middle class, and creating equitable opportunities for all those who live in Boston. The FY21 budget supports Boston’s long-term plan, Imagine Boston 2030.
For more information about the budget, visit Boston’s budget website at budget.boston.gov.