$285,000 made in cuts to $232 million FY 19 budget
By Brendan Clogston
City councillors made some minor cuts to Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s $232 million FY 19 budget during their initial budget hearings this week. Over the course of two hearings Monday and Wednesday evenings, the council’s budget committee voted to recommend cutting a total of $285,000 from the budget. The only cut Monday evening was the removal of $100,000 from the Human Resource Department’s unemployment line. At Wednesday’s hearing, $185,000 was cut from the Mayor’s Office’s budget, including a $60,000 cut from 311, $25,000 from the city celebrations line item, and $100,000 from the marketing and business development line item.
The mayor and his CFO, Eric Demas, have cautioned councillors and the public that this fiscal year will pose a unique challenge for the city as it increases spending to prepare for the 2019 opening of Encore Boston Harbor without enjoying all of the economic benefits it’s expecting to accrue after its opening. The School Department’s continuing budget woes due to cuts in state aid have also put a strain on the city’s expenses.
According to Demas, given these factors, the budget will result in approximately an 11 percent increase in taxes. Little room was available to cut, however, as the mayor had already cut $2.7 million off the requests made by his department heads before even submitting the budget to the council.
“There are green pastures ahead of us, but fiscal 19 is very challenging year for us – the year prior to the resort opening and all of the ancillary growth that is accompanying it,” said Demas. “It’s not whether certain items are necessary, it’s what can the city and the taxpayers afford.”
The budget contains no layoffs, but there are a number of vacant staff positions that will not be filled this year in order to save money. Despite that, councillors were concerned with this year’s budget’s price tag.
“I understand it’s only one year, but it takes one year for a person to lose their home,” said Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio. “I believe that this budget needs to be cut at least $3 or $4 million, and I understand there’s no way we’re going to come up with $3 or $4 million in this budget on the city end, but we have to figure out what to do. I think this is the toughest year that I’ve ever been up here.”
The council has the power to make further cuts at its next regular meeting, but Budget Committee Chair Richard Dell Isola urged councillors to ask any questions they might have and recommend any cuts they might want to see during the hearings while they had department heads in the room. However, on Wednesday Mayor DeMaria assured the councillors that all department heads would be present for the final budget vote on June 25, should the council wish to consider any further cuts at that time.
Each department returned some unexpended money to the city from their budget’s from the previous year. In total, $1,695,000 were returned by the departments.