The City Council is getting a fairly heavy dose of emails concerning the FY25 School budget. This is due to the fact the Administration and the School Committee are engaged in negotiations over the amount the School budget will be increased in FY25. The good news is that unlike in other communities, it's a question of how much the School budget will be increased by this year, rather than cuts. But still, it's important because the final round of money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund runs out on September 30, and so we need to move the remaining positions in our schools stood up by ESSER funds onto the General Fund, our annual operating budget.

FY25 Budget expectations

Even with an increase in revenues projected for FY25, there are financial pressures on the City, like looming contract agreements with multiple unions that we know will involve increased compensation, as well as new expenses like the new Assembly Square fire station projected to open this coming fiscal year and the lease on space at the Tufts Administration Building for the City and SPS staff displaced from the Edgerly School to house the Winter Hill Community Innovation School

The School Committee went into the FY25 budget process expecting the eight-percent increase they believe was promised last year, while the Administration has floated a five- to seven-percent increase from the current School budget. The Administration asked the School Committee to present what a range of increases between six and seven percent would look like, and the School Committee determined that only a seven-percent increase without additional expenses would achieve a level-service budget.

On Thursday, the Administration announced it would target a seven-percent increase in the FY25 School budget. This was an important step toward an agreement, and leaves approximately $330,000 in employee benefits expenses as a key remaining obstacle to a budget agreement. I'm hopeful there's an agreement between the Administration and the School Committee ahead of Wednesday night's School Committee Finance and Facilities Subcommittee meeting.

One of the interesting bits of trivia is that state law allows the School Committee to submit their own alternative proposed budget to the City Council, who would then get to decide whether to approve the Administration's proposed School budget or the one provided by the School Committee. While I'd love to avoid this scenario altogether, I think it's a very safe bet that the City Council would opt to approve the School Committee's FY25 budget if faced with a choice in June. That would mean we would need to make cuts elsewhere to balance the overall budget with the higher School budget.

The Administration may not like the cuts the council would make, so here's hoping they opt to cut out things elsewhere in the budget while constructing a proposed budget and arrive at an agreement with the School Committee. But if that doesn't happen, I have a resolution at the ready for the next City Council regular meeting on May 9 that would give the council the chance to make it publicly known that we intend to approve the School Committee budget if we get competing School budgets this year. 

Jake Wilson


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