The Finance Committee met as a Committee of the Whole with all 11 councilors on Tuesday, March 26, in the City Council Chamber in City Hall. Our objective on the night was to identify our top shared budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2025 and craft resolutions expressing these priorities.

FY25 Shared Budget Priorities Survey

The planning for this meeting began back in January, and involved conversations with all 10 of my colleagues to get their feedback on previous years' processes and suggestions for this year's process. From those discussions, I put together the FY25 Shared Budget Priorities process that was presented to the council at the February 8 regular meeting.

Last night was the third time we have held this meeting to determine our shared budget priorities as a body, and from my perspective this year was by far the smoothest and most efficient process of the three. Between tweaks to the processes from prior years to address issues that arose and some excellent ideas from colleagues to make things work even better, this year's meeting went fairly well.

We started by adopting a temporary rule for the evening that any resolutions would require approval by two-thirds of the membership, or eight votes, in order to be approved. Then we went around The Horseshoe, with councilors stumping for their top individual budget priorities to try to garner support from colleagues on the survey to follow.

We used an Attorney General-approved method of a Google Form survey to express support for up to 10 areas. With all the excellent individual budget priorities submitted by councilors this year, it was extremely difficult narrowing that down to just 10 areas. Once all 11 councilors had submitted their surveys, we went into recess while our Legislative and Policy Analyst and I tabulated the results of the survey.

When the meeting returned to order, we had the following ranked list of areas, in order of the number of councilors including them in their top 10 areas of support on the survey:

Rank Area Votes
1 Housing Stabilization (includes Rental Assistance Flex Fund) 9
2 Homeless Services 8
3 Alternative Emergency Response 7
  Housing Affordability (includes Acquisition Fund and/or Creation) 7
  Municipal Composting 7
6 Rodent Mitigation (includes Cost Reimbursement) 5
7 Medical Debt Forgiveness 4
  Municipal Building Decarbonization (includes Feasibility Study) 4
  Out-of-School Time Programming 4
  Overdose Prevention Center 4
11 Community Use Activation of High School Building 3
  Elected Official Compensation 3
  Enforcement Staff 3
  OSPCD Staff 3
  Planning Preservation and Zoning Staff for Council Support 3
  Small Business Assistance 3
  Water & Sewer Ratepayer Assistance 3
18 Camera Traffic Enforcement Pilot 2
  Childcare Assistance Program 2
  City Clerk Staffing 2
  Full-Time Senior Advocate Liaison position 2
  Language Justice Employee Training 2
  Neighborhood Community Cleanups 2
  Salary Contingency Stabilization Fund Contributions for New Labor Contracts 2
  Taxi to Health Program 2
26 Accessibility 1
  Afterschool Clubs 1
  COVID-19 Tests & Masks 1
  Emergency Contraception Vending Machine 1
  Home Air Filtration Pilot Program 1
  OSE Staffing (includes Invasive Species Manager) 1
  Police Budget Reflecting Recommendations of Police Staffing & Operations Report 1
  Public Transit Affordability 1
  Rental Registry & Energy Disclosure 1
  SOIA Interpretation & Translation Services 1
  Street Resurfacing 1
  Street Safety Improvements 1
  Youth Jobs Program 1

We took up and quickly passed resolutions expressing support for FY25 shared budget priorities for the top five areas of housing stabilization, homeless services, alternative emergency response, housing affordability, and municipal composting -- and referenced all the approaches for those areas listed in councilor individual budget priority memos and resolutions.

When I moved to adjourn to give the body the opportunity to decide whether to continue or call it a night, there was a strong, unanimous support for continuing. So we passed a resolution naming rodent mitigation as a sixth FY25 shared budget priority.

I then pointed out the four-way tie between medical debt forgiveness, municipal building decarbonization, out-of-school time programming, and an overdose prevention center that was up next if we opted to continue, and I again moved to adjourn. This time around there were differing opinions on whether to press on, with colleagues voting against adjournment by a 6-3 margin (with two councilors absent).

Councilor Burnley proposed taking up all four areas with a single resolution. This was supported by everyone present, and so we added those four areas to the list of FY25 shared budget priorities. With a tranche of seven areas looming, the motion to adjourn passed 7-2 and we called it a night.

In the end, we passed the following FY25 shared budget priority resolutions:

  • That this Council conveys its support for Housing Stabilization as outlined in memos and budget priorities submitted by City Councilors.
  • That this Council conveys its support in the FY 2025 budget, for homeless services including all approaches listed in councilor memos, and specifically including funding for a permanent brick and mortar location.
  • That all items in the Alternative Emergency Response category be submitted to the Mayor to be included in the FY 2025 budget.
  • That this Council conveys to the Mayor the importance of housing affordability, including the creation of an Acquisition Fund, as a Council priority for inclusion in the FY 2025 budget.
  • That this Council conveys its support for the inclusion of municipal composting in the FY 2025 budget, including all approaches listed in Councilor memos.
  • That the Administration include rodent mitigation in the FY 2025 budget as outlined in Councilor memos and resolutions, and increase funding and staffing in the city for rodent mitigation.
  • That this Council conveys its support for providing resources in the FY 2025 budget for medical debt forgiveness, municipal building decarbonization, out of school time programming, and an overdose prevention center, as outlined in Councilor memos for their FY 2025 budget priorities.

I look forward to seeing how these areas are meaningfully addressed in the proposed FY25 budget. With the growth of our City's revenues slowing dramatically and looming obligations to move programs and positions from pandemic ARPA and ESSR funding to the General Fund, I know it's going to be tough to get too many new things funded this year. But I'll remain hopeful that the City is able to do something in all 10 areas.

Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)