Somerville 2012 Budget: A Quick Look
A $4.5 million shortfall, three layoffs, no reductions in teachers, police officers or firefighters.
Last night, Mayor Joseph Curtatone presented the proposed fiscal-year-2012 budget to the Somerville Board of Aldermen. Here's a quick look at what that budget looks like.
2012 begins this July
Fiscal year 2012 runs from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012.
$169.7 million budget
The proposed general fund operating budget is $169,732,903. This is about $4.2 million larger than the fiscal-year-2011 budget, a 2.55 percent increase, which Curtatone described as "miniscule."
$4.5 million budget gap
The city still faces an approximately $4.5 million budget shortfall—the gap between what the city raises in taxes and other revenues and what it spends. Back in May, the projected shortfall was about $7.1 million.
Closing the gap
The city would close this gap by doing six things:
1) Using about $1.5 million from the rainy day stabilization fund.
2) Beginning to issue tickets for cars with expired registration and safety inspection stickers, which the city projects would raise about $939,000.
3) Raising the fees on residential parking permits from $20 to $30.
4) Increasing revenue from parking meters.
5) Achieving "departmental efficiencies." This means tweaking operations in city departments to save some money. As an example, responsibility for dealing with street signs will move from the department of public works to the traffic and parking department, a move that is supposed to save less than $500,000, according to a budget chart provided by the mayor's office.
6) Instituting "reductions in force." There will be three layoffs in the traffic and parking department. In that same department, four positions that are currently not filled will be eliminated. "Our managers are telling us we can achieve efficiencies," said Curtatone. He also said, "We cannot justify to the taxpayer spending more" on that department, especially since more people have been complying with parking regulations and the department is issuing fewer tickets.
No cuts to teachers, police or fire
Curtatone emphasized there would be no layoffs in the school system or in the police and fire departments.
He compared this to the experience of nearby communities. "Those communities that are referred to as preferable communities, like Belmont" are facing significant layoffs, he said. In April, 40 teachers in Belmont received layoff notices. If you compare Somerville to "those competitive communities" and "match them up apples to apples, we're beating them," the mayor said.
The police department will add four patrol officers to its force in the fiscal-year-2012 budget, and the fire department will add a fire management analyst.
What is not included in the fiscal-year-2012 budget is a plan to move municipal employees' health insurance into plans managed by the Group Insurance Commission, a quasi-independent state health-insurance agency.
Legislators on Beacon Hill are currently debating various bills that would allow municipalities to participate in the Group Insurance Commission, but the debate is ongoing.
Curtatone said "we are moving toward the GIC," but not in fiscal year 2012.
If municipal employees were part of Group Insurance Commission with an "80/20 split"—the city pays 80 percent of an employee's health-care premiums, and the employee pays 20 percent—it would save the city $8.3 million, said Curtatone.
He expects the city to move in that direction for fiscal year 2013.