By William Tauro
As we all may know that Mayor Katjiana Ballantyne has submitted SOMERVILLE’S FY24 BUDGET this past week. Media Reports on the budget do not speak about Public Safety, Fire, Police nor Department of Public Works (DPW). The budget is full of new positions/departments on Social Agency’s across numerous non Public Safety Departments.
The school department is to be receiving a 10 % increase (REPORTED TO BE THE LARGEST IN ITS HISTORY.) A good chunk of the budget money is implementing more bicycle safety issues and hire/contracts with agencies that promote such, and I’m totally fine with that, but again no mention about public safety.
There is nothing mentioned about a fire station house, which is way overdue for upgrade that’s located on Highand Avenue, but she’s appropriating $1.2 million for public porter-pottys. Again no money for a dilapidated fire house.
She’s allowing money to open a homeless support center, which I’m totally fine with, but she wants to provide Internet access for 1 Davis Square instead of being concerned about seriously needed public safety.
Let’s just hope that she realizes her oversights and appropriate some money aside for the DPW to fix our dilapidated streets that are full of oversized crater potholes citywide and some money for the veterans and seniors, especially to put the veterans monuments back to where they belong. Let’s hope and pray she does the right thing.
“When just ok, just isn’t good enough!”
Below is Mayor Katjiana Ballantyne’s SOMERVILLE’S FY24 BUDGET that she released this past week:
Mayor Katjana Ballantyne Submits Somerville’s FY24 Budget
Proposed budget delivers major investments in youth, affordability, and infrastructure, with equity and sustainability at the core
SOMERVILLE – Mayor Katjana Ballantyne today submitted Somerville’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal, directing $337.4 million toward key investments in the provision of City services and programs and the advancement of community priorities. Expanding on last year’s focus on building a foundation for progress, this budget prioritizes investments in the resources needed to serve all residents and meet the community’s ambitious goals, from supporting youth, seniors, and vulnerable residents to advancing affordability, taking on infrastructure challenges, developing equity across all functions, and pursuing sustainability goals.
The FY24 budget was developed through inclusive engagement with the community and City Council. The Administration evaluated all new investments based on four criteria: equity, sustainability, responsive government, and recommendations from the Work Better Task Force, an internal task force aimed at improving the work environment for staff as well as the productivity of the organization to ultimately best serve residents. This systematic review helped to ensure those values are incorporated across departments and investments.
“This budget delivers targeted investments to tackle our most pressing challenges while building the City’s capacity to deliver high-quality services to all residents, no matter their circumstances. Last year, we set our foundation for progress for all; this year, we’re focused on strategic growth that will advance our shared priorities,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “We’ve also put forth a proposal that leads with our values – equity, sustainability, and responsive government – and embeds these non-negotiables across investments. This budget is built on collaboration and engagement, and I’m incredibly proud to share it with the community.”
Investing in Our People
Investing in youth remains a top priority for the Ballantyne Administration. The FY24 budget builds on last year’s historic 10% increase in the Somerville Public Schools budget with a 7.8% increase this year, including $500,000 for out-of-school-time programming by both the Schools and the City. It also includes $240,000 to continue running the City’s two teen centers launched in 2022, as well as two new full-time staff positions to support teen center programming and operations.
To better serve Somerville’s most vulnerable residents, this budget proposes several investments to bring essential services out of City Hall and into the community. A $150,000 investment will establish a new Community Health group within Health & Human Services, with initial funding for three community health workers who will work in local neighborhoods to improve health outcomes. A $120,000 investment will permanently fund a multilingual walking Equity Support Team within the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs to assist all departments citywide in increasing access and connecting residents across Somerville to information and services. Funding is also included for two permanent staff positions in the Council on Aging and expanded programming for older adults in technology, health, and wellness. This budget is also complemented by continued ARPA funding to expand on this year’s successful overnight warming center for unhoused persons during extreme winter weather.
The FY24 budget also invests in programs and services focused on affordability, particularly for underserved communities and artists. Two new staff positions in the Office of Housing Stability will expand case management and outreach capacity, and a new Housing Counsel legal position will support affordable housing programs and investment. A new Food Access Coordinator will advance food-security initiatives across the city. Arts space to rehearse and produce is also an urgent need. This budget includes funding to open a new dance/movement facility and to permanently fund a Space Coordinator within the Arts Council to help connect artists with space to work, practice, and perform.
Addressing Legacy Infrastructure Challenges
From City buildings and schools to roads and underground systems, Somerville’s infrastructure suffers from decades of deferred investment. This budget addresses legacy challenges and prepares for the future by supporting the delivery of healthy, sustainable facilities and expanding systems for proactive maintenance. Among other investments, $200,000 will support vital Infrastructure and Asset Management systems, which will create efficiencies and useful data to support both long-term projects and improved maintenance procedures. A new Building Systems Manager will oversee preventative maintenance of all facility and utility systems, refrigeration, HVAC, plumbing, emergency generators, fire protection, and electrical systems. A new Traffic Engineer will expand capacity for roadway reconstruction and safety improvements. This budget also includes $375,000 to pave the eastern portion of Highland Avenue, one of Somerville’s most traveled roadways that has long been in disrepair. A new ADA Field Associate will also add technical expertise to oversee Americans with Disabilities Act compliance across the city.
Supporting a Healthy, Resilient Environment
This budget aims to embed sustainability across services to advance the City’s climate action efforts. A new Sustainability Planner will support citywide resiliency and building-decarbonization efforts and co-chair a new Resiliency Task Force. Another $100,000 is allocated for two climate action feasibility studies. The first will help identify viable sites for a first-of-its-kind pilot project with Eversource to bridge the gap in electric capacity connection between the electric grid and buildings. The second study will identify viable sites for vertical geothermal projects. This budget also proposes two new Environmental Health positions to support rodent mitigation efforts and biosafety. With the Green Line Extension fully operational, this budget also includes $500,000 to provide yearlong MBTA passes for all City and Schools staff, supporting sustainable, equitable transit. (Further T-pass programs for Somerville Public School students, parents, and guardians, as well as low-income residents, are funded via the Schools budget and ARPA.)
Scaling City Services
To deliver on Somerville’s ambitious goals and provide excellent core services, this year’s budget makes a number of investments to build the staffing resources needed to advance this work. A new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer will support the Chief Administrative Officer in evaluating and improving operations across the organization. A number of new deputy and project management positions are also proposed to advance critical projects and allow senior staff to focus on strategy and leadership to enhance service and program delivery. A critical $364,000 investment will support a suite of Information Technology upgrades that will increase efficiency. This budget also focuses on expanding and improving language access and accessibility across City services, with $50,000 for ASL and CART services for public meetings, additional funding is also dedicated to improving and expanding language and interpretation services, and the budget includes a new Language Justice Specialist position to advance the City’s language justice plan.
* Permanent funding for an Emergency Management Director
* Funding to design a Miyawaki Forest behind Somerville High School
* A pilot program to provide free personal sanitary products at City buildings
* A youth-focused needs assessment
* A pilot program to offer summer Sunday hours at the Somerville Public Library East Branch
* A new Human Resources Employee Engagement Specialist position
* A new Senior GIS Manager position
* Funding for bike lane markings & traffic signal redesign
* A new Senior Traffic Engineer position
* Funding to add closed-captioning to GovTV and EdTV programming
* Sensitivity training for City staff
Learn More, Watch Mayor’s Budget Presentation, Attend Public Hearing The Mayor will present the FY24 budget to the City Council on Thursday, June 1, at 7 p.m. The City Council will hold a Budget Public Hearing on Monday, June 5, at 7:30 p.m. To see the proposed FY24 budget, watch the Mayor’s presentation, and participate in the public hearing, go to somervillema.gov/fy24budget.