Sunday, April 12, 2015

Boston City Council Tackles Budget, Art Feasibility, Parking Fines & More

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu provides notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below and more at their April 1 and April 8, 2015 meetings:

Annual Boston Health Assessment: The Boston Public Health Commission filed the completed 2014-2015 annual assessment of the health of Boston residents. This should be available online shortly.

Boston Arts Academy & Josiah Quincy Upper School: We voted to approve orders to conduct new feasibility studies for separate buildings for the Boston Arts Academy (Fenway) and Josiah Quincy Upper School (Chinatown) with applications for reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority where appropriate. The City had conducted a feasibility study for $4M ($3M of it reimbursed by the MSBA) to co-locate the schools in Chinatown, but the resulting design ended up being too expensive and the joint project was stalled. These new orders would authorize appropriations for new feasibility studies. 

FY16 Budget: Mayor Walsh and his team presented the first version of their FY16 budget to the Council this morning. It is a $2.86B operating budget, up 4.4% from last year.  67% of revenues come from property tax levy, with additional new revenue from building permits.  Boston Public Schools make up 36% of expenditures, about $1B. You can find the whole budget, executive summary, and departmental details at www.cityofboston.gov/budget. Key highlights include:

  • 100 more pre-K seats and 16 schools implementing an extended day, with a total phase in over the next three years
  • Parks Department funding at highest-ever, with tree-pruning funds and 2nd shift of crew for parks maintenance, allowing more turnover and use of parks. 
  • $1.75M for affordable housing focused on elderly housing
  • Arts funding has increased 33%, with the City nearly doubling their match for the Mass. Cultural Council's grants to arts organizations
  • $22M snow budget increase, along with some key equipment purchases planned
  • Creation of a diversity officer position for the Boston Fire Department
  • Fully funding the City's youth summer jobs at the same level as last year, even with increased costs due to the minimum wage increase
  • Innovation: Creation of a 311 centralized hotline for the City, $6M for new smart parking meters, and $500K to create an electronic bluebook of street signs and regulations citywide to better analyze parking policies

Parking Fines & Towing: Mayor Walsh filed an ordinance that would allow the Transportation Commissioner to designate Pilot Zones where fines for not moving your car during posted street cleaning times would be increased from $40 to $90 while making it a non-towable offense.  The neighborhoods that would be Pilot Zones have not been set.  The matter was referred to the Government Operations committee for a hearing.

Fenway Parking Fines: We voted to pass an amended version of Councilor Zakim's ordinance to increase the fines for parking in residential spots without a resident parking sticker 2 hours before, during, and after a Red Sox game and also during other events as designated by the City.  The penalty will be increased from $40 (which is comparable or even cheaper than Game Day parking in the area) to $100.  To address concerns voiced at the hearing about confusion from having special parking rules in a single neighborhood and a potential negative impact on small businesses, a sunset clause was added that would have the ordinance expire December 31, 2015 for more evaluation on the data.

For complete notes from the April 1st and April 8th meetings, visit www.michelleforboston.com/notes or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email at www.michelleforboston.com/sendmenotes.

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