The Administration released their proposed FY 2023 budget on Wednesday afternoon. If you haven't had a chance to look it over, I'd encourage you to do so. This year's new format on ClearGov is a lot easier to engage with, and there's some fascinating information in there.
Please join us on Monday, June 6 at 6:00 PM for the public hearing on the FY 2023 budget. The public hearing will be conducted fully remotely via GoToWebinar and members of the public will be recognized and given two minutes each to share their views on the budget. If you'd prefer to submit written comments, those can be emailed to [email protected] by 5 PM on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Please make sure your voice is heard as we get input from the community.
With just over 24 hours to pore over the budget before last night's presentation by the Mayor and the first departmental hearings for Somerville Public Schools, City Council, the clerks, and the Licensing Commission, I've only begun to delve into it. Immediately I've seen some things I loved and some things that disappointed me. All in all, my first reaction is that it's a reasonable jumping off point for Budget Season.
I was encouraged to hear the Mayor say in her presentation last night that the vast majority of the City Council's shared FY 2023 budget priorities were addressed in this budget, and that all of them would be addressed in some way by one funding source or another. The Administration will be providing a memo on the specifics of this, and I'm eagerly awaiting that. I'm hopeful that this can become an ongoing, formalized method of the council giving input on where we'd like to see more money spent, while we're waiting on badly-needed charter reform.
The second part of last night's meeting brought a deep dive into the School Department's FY 2023 budget. I'm proud of our city for the incredible 10-percent increase in our schools budget -- roughly double the typical annual increase! This is recognition of the importance of the work of this entire department and the enormous challenge of the social and emotional challenges they're helping SPS students work through. Right now the kids aren't all right, and we need to be doing everything we can to change that in our city.
Much of the budget conversation on City Council and clerks centered around compensation, and I support calls to pay councilors and clerks living wages. Following an important and illuminating discussion about the revolving fund for the Somerville Commission for Persons with Disabilities and how they can access and spend their funds, we got to questions about revenue.
It was late at that point, but at the end of the meeting I raised what I feel is a very important point: the $287 million in FY 2022 revenue listed in the Budget Book is really going to end up being more than $305 million after the final month of the fiscal year is in the books. This doesn't mean we can raise our revenue estimates for the FY 2023 budget, but it does mean that we're looking at an additional $20 to $25 million in what amounts to found money once Free Cash is certified in the fall. I can think of some important infrastructure investments that would be very worthy candidates for these additional funds.
Here's the remaining schedule for Budget Season:
- Monday, June 6: Public Comment
- Wednesday, June 8: Departmental Hearings (Executive Administration/SomerStat/Arts Council/Elections/Office of Sustainability & Environment/Communications & Community Engagement/Constituent Services/SomerViva/PEG Access/Information Technology)
- Monday, June 13: Departmental Hearings (DPW/IAM/Water/Sewer)
- Tuesday, June 14: Departmental Hearings (RSJ/Parking/OSPCD)
- Wednesday, June 15: Departmental Hearings (Public Safety)
- Thursday, June 16: Departmental Hearings (Finance/HR/Law)
- Tuesday, June 21: Departmental Hearings (HHS/Parks & Rec)
- Wednesday, June 22: Cut Night
- Thursday, June 23: City Council regular meeting (budget approval & end-of-year transfers)
Note: All meetings start at 6pm.
It might seem like the budget is the only thing happening right now, but here are some other things I want to call attention to:
Remembering Stephenson Aman
This evening I'll be attending a memorial service for Stephenson Aman at 6 PM in the Somerville High School auditorium. Steph was a friend and an invaluable partner on work in youth sports -- particularly in equity and inclusion outreach efforts -- and at the Healey School.
Steph passed away suddenly on May 22, and I still can't believe he's gone. It's been comforting to see the outpouring of collective grief and appreciation for someone who did so much for this city. Sadly, I can't help but hurt for how much it would've meant to Steph to feel this love while he was with us. His loss leaves an enormous hole in our community and he will be missed immensely.
Sunday sees the return of Carnaval to East Somerville. This popular SomerStreets event is hosted by the Somerville Arts Council and East Somerville Main Streets and is one of my favorite annual events in our city with music, fun, and food.
I'll be one of a number of folks taking their turn in the dunk tank in front of the Somerville Public Library East Branch. My children are particularly excited to take their turn trying to dunk me for a good cause. Here's the full dunk tank schedule:
2:15 - 2:30 PM: Ward 6 Councilor Lance Davis
2:35 - 2:50 PM: State Rep. Christine Barber
2:55 - 3:10 PM: Councilor-At-Large Jake Wilson
3:15 - 3:30 PM: School Committee Chair (Ward 4) Andre Green
3:35 - 3:50 PM: Ward 3 Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen
4:00 - 4:15 PM: City Council President (Ward 1) Matt McLaughlin
4:20 - 4:35 PM: Teen Empowerment Program Director Danny McLaughlin
Water & Sewer Rates Hearing.
The City is holding its legally-mandated public hearing on water and sewer rates on Tuesday, June 7 at 6:00 PM via Zoom. This is your opportunity to get information on the proposed rates for FY 2023, learn about the work made possible by water and sewer revenues, and provide your feedback.
I-93 Viaduct Meeting
Earlier this year debris falling from the Interstate 93 overpass struck the windshield of a car driving below on the McGrath Highway. This is another worrying example of our crumbling infrastructure in this country after decades of neglect. In response to the incident, MassDOT is planning preservation work on the viaduct and hosting a public information meeting about this via Zoom (registration required) on Thursday, June 9, at 6 PM.
Stop Black Swallow-Wort
Black Swallow-Wort (BSW) is an insidious, invasive species that threatens important pollinators and is showing up in larger and larger numbers in Somerville. This is the time of year when BSW pods appear, so the City is asking residents to help remove it to prevent the spread.
Green & Open Somerville is hosting community BSW pulls around the city. If you find BSW on your property or want to join in one of these events, here are instructions on how to remove these plants in a way that prevents their spread.
Did You Know....
Departments and divisions are given specific goals as part of the budget process and metrics are spelled out to measure success. The City Council's goals are:
- To the extent possible, complete all outstanding legislative work prior to the end of the term. Commit to careful review of any item older than one year to ensure that it remains relevant.
- Streamline processes to minimize paper waste and to ensure that all members can be as prepared as possible to participate in discussions.
- Expand public access and increase public engagement with Council and committee meetings.
No Weak Links!
The Weakest Link Theory holds that a bicycle route is only as good as the worst portion of that route. Whether that's a steep hill, an uneven surface, or a dangerous stretch of road, these are the areas that impact people's decision-making on whether they feel comfortable biking.
That's why it's crucial for us to put together a comprehensive bike network. Fortunately, the city is working on just that, and they're still seeking responses to the Bicycle Network Plan Survey.
Boards & Commissions Openings
Serving on a board or commission is a great way to get involved in your city. Here are the current bodies with vacancies:
- Somerville Planning Board
- Somerville Urban Design Commission
- Somerville Appointments Advisory Committee
- Somerville Human Rights Commission
- Somerville Commission for Women
- Somerville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners
I'm holding in-person office hours on Sunday from noon to 2pm in Chuckie Harris Park -- convenient for attending Carnaval nearby immediately afterward. Come join your neighbors in a discussion of issues impacting our city.
I also offer on-demand office hours to fit your schedule or for those who prefer to meet separately. These conversations with you, my bosses, really are one of my absolute favorite things about this job. So please book a time to meet in person or virtually directly on my calendar via my Calendly.
The Week Ahead
It's another week of wall-to-wall meetings. Here's what I'll be attending next week:
- Monday, June 6 (3:30 PM) - Somerville Armory Master Plan Advisory Committee meeting
- Monday, June 6 (6:00 PM) - FY 2023 Budget public hearing
- Tuesday, June 7 (7:00 PM) - Route 16 Traffic Calming Coalition meeting
- Wednesday, June 8 (6:00 PM) - FY 2023 Budget departmental budget hearing (Executive Administration, SomerStat, Arts Council, Elections, Office of Sustainability & Environment, Communications & Community Engagement, Constituent Services, SomerViva, PEG Access, Information Technology)
- Thursday, June 9 (5:30 PM) - Winter Hill Civic Advisory Committee meeting
- Thursday, June 9 (7:00 PM) - City Council regular meeting
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