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Boston City Council passes $4.2 billion operating budget that would cut BPD by $31 million

Mayor Michelle Wu will now have the opportunity to veto some, all, or none of the council’s amendments.

The budget proposal, which was passed by the council 7 to 5, includes about $53 million worth of council amendments.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The Boston City Council approved a $4.2 billion operating budget Wednesday, sending the matter to Mayor Michelle Wu, whose administration already is expressing concerns about the scope of the changes in the council-approved spending plan, setting up a potential showdown over tax dollars between the city’s progressive executive and its largely progressive legislative body.

The budget proposal, which was passed by the council 7 to 5, includes about $53 million worth of council amendments, changes that featured a nearly $31 million bite out of the Boston Police Department’s roughly $400 million proposed budget. Wu has the ability to veto some, all, or none of the council’s budget amendments; then, the budget will be sent back to the city’s legislative body. A two-thirds majority is needed to override a mayoral veto.


“We’ll be reviewing the Council’s amended budget in the next couple of days, but have concerns about the scale and scope of cuts proposed to departments delivering key City services,” said a Wu spokesman in a statement.

The amendments approved by the council would result in net decreases to some city departments, according to the Wu administration, including the Boston Transportation Department, the Public Works Department, the Inspectional Services Department, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, the Office of Veterans Services, and the Boston Police Department.

The list of amendments is lengthy and would fund a litany of initiatives. Plans would bolster funding for mental health response; signage for a Black Heritage Trail; vouchers for public school students, programs that would expand the city’s tree canopy; and measures that would help child care, workforce development, English-as-second-language classes, street and sidewalk repairs, graffiti removal, and many other line items.

The council vote was split largely along racial lines. The five no votes were all from white members: Frank Baker, Gabriela “Gigi” Coletta, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Erin Murphy. With the exception of Liz Breadon, the yes votes were all councilors of color: Ricardo Arroyo, Tania Fernandes Anderson, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell.


“How we prioritize where our money goes matters,” said Fernandes Anderson, who is the chair of the council’s ways and means committee.

Mejia, meanwhile, lamented that “we keep asking for things expecting different results, but never having the right tools or resources.”

“Here we are yet again,” she said, “making decisions that the people . . . have elected us to make. And always coming back to, ‘It’s too much. It’s too bold. It’s too soon.’”

Some of those who voted against the budget explained their reasoning. Coletta, for instance, said she could not vote for a budget “that pulled significant personnel cuts from city departments that provide deeply needed services to our residents, especially as our city grows.”

For Flaherty, the proposed reduction to police was too excessive and “completely unacceptable.” He asserted that residents want to see more police.

“The disrespect that they’re getting in this budget has me voting loudly and clearly: ‘No,’” he said.

Fernandes Anderson pushed back on the notion that more police were needed, particularly in communities of color, and referenced the institutional racism that continues to this day in Boston.

“You made us violent, you created a jungle, you made us into an animal,” she said. “We’re surviving the very system that this city built and here we are saying ‘Invest in us.’”


Flynn also voted against the budget, citing a significant slash to public safety services in the city. Specifically, the US Navy veteran took exception to a proposed cut of $900,000 to veterans services, which he called “unconscionable.”

“The headline potentially could be: ‘This body has turned our backs on veterans,’” he said.

Wednesday’s vote came at the eleventh hour in the city’s budgeting process, as it was the last opportunity for the council to put its stamp on the city’s spending for next year. The rules that govern that process state that the council “shall take definite action on the annual budget by adopting, amending, or rejecting it” no later than the second Wednesday in June.

The council made its attempted changes under a budget process that was approved by voters in 2021, aiming to make city spending decisions more democratic by empowering councilors to represent their respective neighborhoods.

Before then, the council could only approve or deny the mayor’s overall budget proposal and could not move money between line items unless the mayor requested it. That system had long frustrated councilors.

Nowadays, the council has more power over the city’s purse strings, but under current budget protocols, the council cannot propose an operating budget that exceeds the $4.2 billion total Wu outlined earlier this year. That means if councilors want to add somewhere, they must subtract somewhere else.

Wednesday’s vote came a week after some City Hall drama saw the council pass the operating budget, only to reverse course hours later after two councilors changed their votes, sending the matter back to the council’s ways and means committee for another week.


That scuttled proposal was a dialed-up version of the one the council passed Wednesday. It included $75 million worth of amendments, including a potential $42 million decrease to Boston police funding.

Last year, as it adjusted to the new process, the council passed only modest changes to the mayor’s proposed budget, notably backing away from a cut to the police department budget that initially had support from all 13 councilors.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Vicki DiLorenzo, executive director of Right to the City Boston, which is a part of a coalition of groups that are advocating for more funding for participatory budgeting, said the ball is now in the mayor’s court. A line item for participatory budgeting, a process that is meant to more deeply engage residents in how tax dollars are spent, was initially $2 million under Wu’s proposal. Advocates like DiLorenzo had pushed for $40 million; the budget approved Wednesday included $10 million for that initiative.

“This is her opportunity to show us whether she’s serious about a budget that actually funds community needs,” she said of Wu.

Meanwhile, Larry Calderone, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the largest police union in the city, said, “Sadly, we continue to see Boston City councilors proudly displaying their anti-police bias while clearly exploiting the budget process to hurt and harm the very same families and neighborhoods they claim to represent.


“The people we talk to say they want more safety,” he said.

In other business on Wednesday, the council also approved a $1.45 billion budget for Boston Public Schools.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.