Aldermen Approve 2012 Budget
No services will be cut in $169.7 million budget, but some fines and fees will increase.
The Somerville Board of Aldermen approved a $169.7 million budget for general fund appropriations for fiscal year 2012 last night.
In doing so, Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston, chair of the board's finance committee, praised the city for not making cuts to city services, the fire and police departments or schools, despite a loss of $28 million in state aid as compared to the year 2002, when state aid was at its highest.
In that year, Somerville received about $57 million from the state; this year, that number is down to about $29 million, according to the city's budget reports.
"We're still standing, but not only are we standing, we're standing strong," said Heuston. However, "Don't anyone thing that this has come easy," she said, emphasizing that city officials have had to make difficult decisions.
Fees and fines
Budget deliberations progressed this June with few controversies. However, some aldermen lamented the need to raise some fees and fines as a tool to balance the budget.
In particular, Somerville projects it will raise approximately $940,000 in revenue by ticketing cars that have expired inspection stickers and expired registrations. This constitutes a large chunk of the $4.5 million shortfall the city was facing for fiscal year 2012.
The city also plans to raise the fee for residential parking permits from $20 to $30, among other fee and fine increases.
Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz said raising fees and fines hits poor and middle class people the hardest, and "they're a flat tax, basically."
She said raising fees and fines every year to balance the budget is "untenable," and "I look forward to a time when we can reduce those fees and fines."
Her sentiments were partly echoed by other aldermen.
Alderman At-Large John Connolly said, "We don't live in a perfect world," that the city had to make tough decisions and in the end, "this budget is a fair budget." He blamed the ongoing loss in state aid for putting the city in a position where it had to raise fees and fines.
Alderman At-Large Bruce Desmond said, "So much of this [budget] burden falls on the homeowner." Therefore, he said, increasing the city's commercial tax base is important.
In the end, the board of aldermen approved the budget unanimously.