The Boston City Council unanimously passed Mayor Thomas Menino's Fiscal Year 2013 operating budget of $2.5 billion at Wednesday's regular council meeting.
There is $215 million in new FY 2013 project authorizations throughout the neighborhoods - so let's see what Menino and some of the councilors believe are the highlights to the FY '03 budget, which begins on July 1, 2012.
- “In this year’s budget, there are several improvements for my district. They include new infrastructure from the West End to Fenway, new investments in the Boston Common and improved facilities and roadways throughout.” said District 8 City Councilor Michael Ross.
- The Menino administration pointed to employee healthcare costs as the biggest savings for Boston. The municipal health care agreement the City reached with union leaders last spring will slow health care cost increases by more than $70 million during four years. But health care takes up a large chunk of the budget—$289 million is marked for health insurance premiums for city employees and retirees. That's nearly 12 percent of the total budget, according to the Menino administration.
- The Boston Police Department will grow its Neighborhood Watch Unit by appointing a Director of Neighborhood Outreach to improve communication and collaboration with community service officers. Safe Street Teams will expand by 15 people thanks to a federal grant.
- PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes, made by colleges and nonprofits) contributions will increase by at least $5 million in this budget, with that money going to the city’s General Fund. Said City Council President Stephen Murphy, "All community centers, libraries, schools gain from a boost in the General Fund. Boston’s medical institutions really stepped up to the plate this year by increasing their contributions, especially Children’s Hospital Boston with a contribution of over $450,000. The educational institutions of Northeastern University and Simmons College also contributed significant amounts, along with Wentworth Institute of Technology.”
- District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina said the capital budget includes more than $135 million of projects in his district. He highlighted the Harvard Mall play area in Charlestown having a complete renovation of the tot lot and surrounding area.
- Also the Clougherty Pool in Charlestown will be rehabbed; and there will be improvements to Winthrop Square in Charlestown.
- In East Boston, also represented by LaMattina, he highlighted the design, development and construction of an East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library; as well as the redesign of Central Square in East Boston, as two highlights for that area.
- Upgrades to the North End Branch Library are coming, too, in this budget, said LaMattina.
- In West Roxbury, District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley highlighted the creation of a tot lot at Billings Field for children up to 4-years-old; as well as the renovation of the Draper Pool, which will create an accordion-style door that will be open air.
- In Jamaica Plain, O'Malley said the renovations to the Jamaica Plain Library on Sedgwick Street; as well as the repair to the Jamaica Pond boathouse and Wards Pond boardwalk, both of the Emerald Necklace - are the JP highlights of the budget.
Overall, the city's budget increased 3 percent over last year, coming in at $2.5 billion for fiscal 2013. That's an annual increase of $72 million. Property taxes continue to be the city’s largest source of revenue, along with hotel, meals and other excise tax revenue. according to city officials. The city’s second largest source of revenue is net state aid from Massachusetts, which is expected to increase by $3.6 million from FY 2012.