What a difference a year makes.
Last year, then-City Council president Kim Janey was among those calling for changes to the mayor’s operating budget for the city, amid a broad push for the dismantling of systemic racism.
This year, Janey, now Boston’s acting mayor, is in the position of selling her own operating budget to councilors, three of whom are vying to succeed her as mayor.
At City Hall on Wednesday, Janey introduced a proposed $3.75 billion budget for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, saying it includes a “slate of investments that will help us create a more resilient city.” The budget plan aims to help Boston bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, stressing equity in her remarks.
“After much hard work, we have a robust budget built around an equitable recovery, reopening, and renewal of Boston,” she said.
The budget was presented to the City Council Wednesday morning before its weekly meeting. At the meeting, the matter was sent to the council’s ways and means committee, which will hold hearings and working sessions in the weeks and months to come.
Some councilors issued statements reacting to the proposed budget, which represents a year-over-year increase of 3.9 percent, or $142 million.
Councilor Kenzie Bok, chairwoman of the ways and means committee, said that Boston, compared to other cities, is fortunate “to have a strong enough fiscal foundation that even in these really difficult times, we’re still able to modestly increase most departments and make some larger investments in critical areas.”
“It will be important over the next few months for the council to work with the Administration to make sure that no dollar goes to waste,” Bok said. “We need all our spending, both operating funds and federal dollars, effectively targeted at a transformative recovery.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards said the council “will spend the next few months going through the budget line by line to ensure that it balances public safety, fiscal responsibility, education equity, and COVID recovery.”
“I want nothing more than for our next budget to meet the moment that we’re in and set us up for future stability and success,” she said.
Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu said she was “looking forward to digging into the details, but now is the moment for bold proposals, not incremental change.” She also referenced the importance of federal COVID-19 funds. Janey said the city is on tap to receive more than $700 million in new federal funding to be spent over the next five years.
Said Wu, “With the extraordinary responsibility of allocating one-time federal relief funds, we can’t keep putting Band-Aids on deep challenges — we need clear plans to deliver on an equitable recovery.”
Janey has already been criticized by some advocates for not making more severe cuts at the Police Department in her proposed budget. She calls for a department budget of just under $400 million, down from this year’s approved allotment of $404 million, which the department is projected to exceed by $17 million. Janey has defended her budget choices regarding police, saying that deeper cuts would result in increased overtime costs.
Janey’s proposal looks to reduce police overtime costs from a projected $65 million in spending this year to $48 million next year. During her remarks, she said there is a plan to consider moving some police services to other agencies
Still, for some, that’s not enough.
Councilor Andrea Campbell, who is also running for mayor, said the city needs “a plan that can realize a sizable and sustainable reduction to police overtime, and what I heard today doesn’t go far enough.” Campbell said she would reallocate at least $50 million from the police budget, by changing union contracts to eliminate an overtime minimum provision and shifting police personnel from specialized units to patrolling districts.
“Neither the amount they’ve committed to reduce nor the strategies proposed to realize that reduction will achieve the transformation in our approach to policing and public safety and sustainability in our budget that this moment demands,” she said.
Another councilor who is running for mayor, Annissa Essaibi George, applauded Janey for making a commitment to increase the size of the police force by 30 officers, but said more than that are needed.
“It is not enough,” she said. “We have heard loud and clear that we need more police officers.”
Essaibi George said she would like to see greater investment in “Mass. and Cass” — the area around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, which has been ground zero for the city’s opioid crisis — and in Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect budget,” she said.