To the Honorable Board of Aldermen and Somerville Residents and Business Owners:
Somerville stands at a historic moment. As our City celebrates its 175th anniversary and looks back at its industrial past, we are moving forward with unprecedented determination to shape a people-centric future—one that brings us the jobs, housing, transit, open space, city services, environmental stewardship, quality education, and other advances aimed at keeping our community and our residents thriving. These goals, laid out in our community-made 20-year SomerVision comprehensive plan, grow ever nearer as we invest in our community, and as important projects such as the Green Line, Union Square, Assembly Row, and neighborhood planning move forward. All is a result of the tireless and thoughtful e orts of our Board of Aldermen, the community, and the City.
But the foundation of that progress is, essentially, three-fold: grit, vision, and sound fiscal management. Somerville’s grit, our unwavering determination, needs no explanation. Our vision, the ability to come together to imagine a better future—for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors—is also easily on view in so much of what we do every day as a community. Our sound fiscal management in turn can be seen in our healthy financial indicators, our economic growth, and in the strategic decisions made in preparing our annual budgets.
To name just a few indicators: Our free cash and rainy day funds remain at the highest in our history even as we make record investments in our schools, open space, transit, and infrastructure. Our bond rating remains the highest in the City’s history, as the rating agencies take note of our continuing growth and sound management practices. With record new growth and commercial investment, our tax base is expanding. Commercial taxes and permit revenues continue to grow allowing us to make targeted investments. In the last two years, our building permit revenues increased by over 465 percent. Over the same period, more than 250 new businesses have been added to our local economy. We’ve added more than 6,000 new jobs to the city since 2010 and more than 15,000 new jobs are called for in the Union Square Neighborhood Plan.
Meanwhile, we have steadily built up—budget by budget and year by year—the human and fiscal resources we need to continue this progress. We do so with budgets committed to conservative fiscal management,
City of Somerville, MA — FY2018 Municipal Budget Page | 9
Budget detailed here remains steadfastly in line with these principles—if not more so.
Most notably, the proposed FY18 Annual Budget is a near-level service budget. Simply put, we are holding steady with a budget where increases are primarily to meet rising fixed costs—such as health insurance, pension liabilities, utilities, and the overall cost of services and supplies—rather than new investments. This budget will thus yield an increase in spending but will not require taxing to the levy limit, meaning that we are not spending every dollar that we can. Rather we are preparing for our future liabilities and budgeting to slow the growth in taxes.
One focus of investment that will not slow, however, is our schools. We’ve worked intensively to drive up achievement, test scores, and graduation rates, and to continue this rise we must make the strategic investments in education that will help each of our students achieve his or her potential. Increased school funding in the proposed FY18 budget is targeted to support critical out-of-school programming, technology investments including increased STEAM programming, middle school sports programming to allow greater access to physical activity earlier, investments in our Universal Kindergarten Readiness and Pre-K initiatives including a third Head Start classroom, and enhanced special education services including the hiring of a district Autism Specialist, as well as other programs. We must ensure our children are given every opportunity to learn and succeed.
The FY18 proposed budget also anticipates the signing of several union contracts and recognizes the need to attract and retain qualified sta . We are planning ahead by setting aside funds now to meet expected union contract obligations, and this budget also implements Phase II of the non-union salary adjustments called for by the Municipal Compensation Advisory Board (MCAB).
Surgical, narrowly focused investments are also proposed in several areas that will go beyond level service. In FY17, we created a new Department of Public Works Fleet Division, and in FY18 we propose the needed funding to allow the division to invest in and maintain our assets. In a similar vein, as we strive to take care of our assets, our buildings, our schools, and our community spaces, we are also doubling down
on investments in the maintenance of our buildings and grounds. This type of preventive maintenance investment is designed to pay for itself and more in improved asset longevity and decreased repair costs.
As usage of our athletic fields continues to intensify, we must also direct more resources to field maintenance to keep up with the additional wear and demand. The FY17 budget introduced new sta ing and structures to improve field maintenance. The FY18 budget proposes doubling the field maintenance budget to ensure they have the resources to carry out this important work.
As our local economy grows, we must ensure that all of our residents have the skills and training required to access the new jobs we are striving to create. To this end, we are investing in a workforce development plan, taking over the funding of the FabVille fabrication lab manager, and supporting expansion of our Nibble program for culinary entrepreneurship.
Finally, our libraries remain an important central source for learning and knowledge access, and to ensure we continue to meet community need, we are investing in two new librarians as well as an increased materials budget for additional resources from print to digital.
Again, we’ve built a proposed budget based on thri , shared community values, and an eye toward our long-range responsibilities. A er years of planning and investing in our city’s economic growth, we are now
Page | 10 City of Somerville, MA — FY2018 Municipal Budget
beginning to reap the financial benefits that growth is producing. Our community planned for this. Our previous investments in our self-reliance are now allowing us to fund critical needs despite historic declines in State aid and a current fiscal year in which net State aid is flat. And we do so as we remain on the path to reducing the structural deficit and our reliance on free cash, which ultimately saves our tax payers money. I would, in short, submit that while this may not be an exciting budget, it is a smart budget. We know that we have goals and liabilities to meet, and we are budgeting today to meet both our current needs and stay our course for the progress we seek for our tomorrows.
I submit this budget humbly and with the greatest respect for the careful review it will receive from my colleagues on the Board of Aldermen, who have worked so closely with us and the community to set our priorities and path forward.
Joseph A. Curtatone Mayor
Click on link below to read City of Somerville Municipal Budget FY2018 proposed: