Real Money – The City of Cambridge FY2017 Budget tops the April 25, 2016 Cambridge City Council Agenda
One of the things that distinguishes a city manager submitted budget from what you might see in a city with a strong mayor form of government is its consistency from year to year. Rather than see budgets for individual departments or initiatives skyrocket or plummet depending on which voters the mayor is courting, we generally see in the Cambridge budgets predictable changes based on rational objectives. That’s worth remembering the next time someone tries to convince you that we need to change the charter.
Here are what I see as the most notable agenda items this week:
Manager’s Agenda #1. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the FY2017 submitted budget and appropriation orders. [$560,592,915 total proposed FY17 Operating Budget – a 5.4% increase over FY2016; $13,969,210 Water Fund; $16,890,570 Public Investment Fund; (plus the total of $188,100,000 in Loan Orders – see #5-11 below)]
Communications and Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Judith T. Martin, Executive Secretary to the School Committee transmitting a copy of an order from the School Committee recommending the FY17 General Fund Budget of the Cambridge Public Schools be adopted in the sum of $172,793,980.00.
The City Manager and his Finance staff are expected to give a Budget Overview at this meeting during which they’ll provide additional details (and a possible correction to the apparently missing Conservation Commission budget). The FY2017 Budget Book (either in print or online) is also expected to be made available around the time of the meeting. The Budget Hearings conducted by the City Council’s Finance Committee commence May 5.
For the sake of comparison, here’s a table showing how some of the budgets have changed over the last year, 2 years, and 12 years.
|GENERAL GOVERNMENT||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|PUBLIC SAFETY||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|Police Review & Advisory Board||$77,210||$75,235||$77,435||$3,700||-95.2||-95.1||-95.2|
|Traffic, Parking & Transportation||$8,175,095||$11,088,415||$11,483,870||$12,299,375||7.1||10.9||50.4|
|Weights & Measures||$98,910||$142,935||$145,875||$148,945||2.1||4.2||50.6|
|COMMUNITY MAINT/DEVELOPMENT||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|HUMAN RESOURCE/DEVELOPMENT||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|Commission on Women||$155,860||$241,295||$246,425||$253,965||3.1||5.3||62.9|
|Human Rights Commission||$158,730||$266,890||$275,140||$257,270||-6.5||-3.6||62.1|
|EDUCATION||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|Schools Operating (TOTAL)||$122,053,195||$156,669,635||$163,940,420||$172,793,980||5.4||10.3||41.6|
|INTERGOVERNMENTAL||FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
|Cambridge Health Alliance||$6,500,000||$6,750,000||$7,000,000||$7,000,000||0.0||3.7||7.7|
|Cherry Sheet Assessments||$11,569,960||$21,504,975||$21,336,755||$21,984,465||3.0||2.2||90.0|
|FY05 adopted||FY15 adopted||FY16 adopted||FY17 proposed||1 yr % change||2 yr % change||12 yr % change|
Manager’s Agenda #2. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-14, regarding the possibility of closing two lanes to cars on Memorial Drive on April 29th for Walk/Ride Day.
I hate to say "I told you so", but… no, I actually enjoy saying "I told you so." The City’s application was not approved due to concerns of the State Police around traffic safety and congestion. There was never any realistic chance that this would be approved. I told you so.
Manager’s Agenda #5-11. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to an order requesting the appropriation and authorization to borrow:
#5: $17,350,000 to provide funds for various water pollution abatement projects, including construction of sewer separation, storm water management and combined sewer overflow reduction elimination improvements within the City’s Alewife Watershed, Cambridgeport Neighborhood, and areas in Harvard Square as well as the Sewer Capital Repairs Program.
#6: $5,000,000 to provide funds for a Comprehensive Facilities Improvement Plan.
#7: $2,000,000 to provide funds for the reconstruction of various City streets and sidewalks.
#8: $149,600,000 to provide funds for various School building infrastructure projects including construction for the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex, building envelope repairs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy, and a new boiler at the Amigos School.
#9: $150,000 to provide funds for the purchase and installation of mechanical components to ensure the operational integrity of the elevator at the Robert W. Healy Public Safety Facility.
#10: $4,000,000 to provide funds for the renovations of the Out of Town News Kiosk Building and adjacent plaza area in Harvard Square.
#11: $10,000,000 to provide funds for the design and construction of a multi-use path/greenway along the eastern Grand Junction railroad right of way from Broadway to the city line.
That’s a total of $188,100,000 in Loan Orders – dominated by the cost of construction of the King Open/Cambridge Street Schools & Community Complex.
Manager’s Agenda #19. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a report on potential issues related to the Barrett, et al. Zoning Amendment.
As promised on the night the Barrett Petition was passed, the proposed amendments have arrived.
Manager’s Agenda #20. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the City of Cambridge receiving a 5-STAR Rating from STAR Communities (STAR) – the highest score ever given in the country and Cambridge is one of only four cities nationally to earn the top 5-STAR rating.
More gold stars for Cambridge.
Unfinished Business #4. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Leland Cheung, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Mar 24, 2016 to discuss a zoning petition by the Sage Cannabis, Inc. to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Section 20.700 Medical Marijuana Overlay Districts by creating an additional Medical Marijuana Overlay District (MMD-3). Question comes of Passing To Be Ordained on or after Apr 18, 2016. Planning Board hearing held on Mar 15, 2016. Petition expires June 22, 2016.
Manager’s Agenda #21. A communication transmitted from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 16-34, which requested a legal opinion on the legality of the Zoning Petition filed by Sage Cannabis, Inc. For a medical marijuana dispensary and whether it is spot zoning.
Communications and Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Councillor Craig A. Kelley, regarding MDD-3 Special District Zoning Petition or the draft letter from the City Manager of non-opposition to the Department of Public Health for Sage Cannabis, Inc.
The Sage Cannabis Petition will likely sail through ordination at this meeting, but the communication from Councillor Kelley is interesting. Apparently, in some other places where marijuana dispensaries have been approved there were agreements signed that would produce revenues for the host cities. It’s a bit odd that Cambridge with its host of community benefit and other mitigation protocols in place never asked for anything from Sage Cannabis.
Communication #1. A communication was received from Steven C. Marsh, Managing Director, Real Estate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Investment Management Company, 238 Main Street, providing a brief update on several requirements related to the Kendall Square zoning (PUD-5).
This letter notes that:
1) MIT’s first community fund contribution payment of $2.5 million and its first community-based organization fund payment of $1 million were made to the City on July 3, 2013; and MIT’s second community fund contribution payment of $2.5 million and second community-based organization fund payment of $1 million were recently made to the City on Apr 7, 2016 bringing MIT’s contributions to $7M. Two more sets of payments will be made in the future, as stipulated by the Kendall PUD-5 final documents.
2) MIT has been working with the City to finalize the property transfer of 35 Cherry Street. The City is working through a community process to determine the future use of the parcel, after which the closing and the transfer of title will be finalized. The City’s acquisition of 35 Cherry Street includes the stipulation that the parcel be used "in perpetuity in a manner that directly benefit residents in the Area Four Neighborhood and surrounding communities."
3) MIT’s $500,000 contribution to the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s Grand Junction pathway project between Main Street and Broadway has enabled that work to proceed to the point that a grand opening celebration is now being planned for the spring.
Resolution #3. Resolution on the death of Suzanne Schell Pearce. Mayor Simmons, Councillor Maher
Cambridge has lost one of the most kind-hearted activists I personally ever met.
Order #1. That the City Council go on record urging the National League of Cities to move the venue for the NLC City Summit scheduled to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, in November 2017 to another state which does not have such discriminatory legislation on the books. Mayor Simmons
Punishing the local businesses who had no say whatsoever in what laws their state government chose to pass.
Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council and the community with a response to the concerns and assessment of the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance. Mayor Simmons
This might also be a good time to get some feedback on reactions to the proposed polystyrene ban set to go into effect later this year. There’s nothing wrong with tweaking ordinances when necessary.
Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Community Development Department, the Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs, and other appropriate City departments to determine the feasibility of waiving the motor vehicle excise tax for electric vehicles. Councillor Devereux
First, this would require authorization from the state. Second, it’s a slippery road to travel when you start taxing people differently based on what you perceive to be better behavior. Why not charge different excise taxes for people who use their vehicles less frequently?
Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council if any progress has been made on the willingness of the City of Cambridge to contribute to a successful Green Line Extension and if there has been conversations with local developers regarding the same. Councillor Toomey
Though I suppose you can make the case that "local developers" and cities through which public transit passes derive benefit from the presence of the transit, this is still a sorry state of affairs when the state and the MBTA cannot manage their fiscal affairs to maintain and enhance their assets.
Order #8. City Council opposition to any off-peak hour fare surcharges as a means of mitigation for continued off-peak hours T service and support for a fair and equitable solution to mitigating the loss of late night T service, specifically one that does not unduly burden those with the least flexibility in their reliance on an affordable means of off-hours transportation. Councillor Cheung
I didn’t know this was even being considered. It is worth mentioning that when the T shuts down at night the cost of transportation goes up considerably for those who must then take taxis or one of the pseudo-taxi services.
Committee Report #2. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Government Operations, Rules & Claims Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 6, 2016 to continue to discuss the development of the process for the selection of a new City Manager.
The process continues. Hopefully not for too long and leading to a good outcome. If the Council becomes deadlocked, I’m happy to make the decision. – Robert Winters