A thriving, healthy, innovative budget. THE CITY OF BOSTON'S FY17 RECOMMENDED BUDGET


Mayor Walsh is presenting a balanced budget that maintains high levels of support in critical areas such as education and public safety, makes limited strategic investments, continues the City’s commitment to addressing its long-term liabilities, and builds on the administration’s record of strong fiscal management. This is made possible by the administration’s achievement of efficiency and savings. The City’s data-driven managerial approach was recently validated by the affirmation of Boston’s triple A bond rating.

At the time Mayor Walsh took office, the City of Boston had successfully weathered the storms of previous recessions. However, several major revenue sources never fully recovered, cost pressures continued to grow, and deferred investments persisted across City government.

In its first two years, the administration has systematically engaged in independent operational reviews and other planning efforts aimed at making government more efficient in order to address areas needing renewed attention.


After conducting operational reviews on the City’s largest departments and reviewing fiscal capacity, the administration anticipates growing fiscal pressure, resulting from:

  • Limited revenue tools beyond property tax “new growth” to address rising costs.
  • The Boston Public Schools’ facilities, operations, human resources, and transportation systems being designed for past generations of students, creating an inefficient cost structure in need of dramatic reform.
  • The City’s Charter School Tuition Assessment having risen by $100 million over the last ten years, while the Charter School Reimbursement Aid to municipalities has been dramatically underfunded, with Boston losing $28 million over the past two fiscal years.
  • City funding for education (BPS and charter tuition) making up a growing portion of the City’s Budget, up to 40% in FY17, while state education aid has declined to 8% of the City’s revenue.
  • The Boston Police Patrolmen’s 2013 arbitration award creating an unsustainable precedent for public safety salary increases that come at the cost of other City spending.
  • The Police Department’s overtime costs having risen to excessive levels, despite higher staffing levels.
  • Due to generations of underfunding the City’s pension obligations, the City’s pension schedule requiring an 8% increase in our payment each year.
  • Health insurance costs again increasing at a higher rate than other City costs despite successful health care cost containment reforms including the recent Public Employee Committee Agreement anticipating $45 million in new savings.

Analysis also determined that significant gaps existed between City supported programming and demand for programs and services. This led to a need for investments highlighted below such as the addition of about 400 of K1 seats (16%) over the past 3 years; more funding for preservation and collections at the Boston Public Library; and more EMTs to serve the growing needs of our increasing population.

Complicating the dual challenges of limited fiscal capacity and the rising expectations for the delivery of City services are two unknown cost drivers that will impact FY17 and beyond. Almost all of the City’s collective bargaining agreements will expire in FY17. Salary increases in these agreements will have a direct impact on dollars available in FY17 and in the coming years. In addition, unless the State acts to address the charter school cap in a way that protects Boston, voter approval of the proposed charter school cap ballot initiative could have a shocking effect on the City’s future finances.

The Walsh administration has been successful in beginning to address these challenges, and this budget builds on that success. But without changing the way we do business, growth in the City’s budget threatens to become unsustainable. For that reason, limited investments in this operating budget must be funded through the enactment of cost saving reforms.

Notably, Public Safety and Streets departments will cut employee overtime hours in FY17, saving the City $11.6 million. This budget builds on the success the Police Department has had in FY16 in reducing overtime hours from FY15.

City departments are saving about $4.7 million by inactivating over 100 vacant positions without impacting service levels. The City is achieving nearly $1 million in utility savings from reduced usage and lower rates, and almost $400,000 in savings by tightening waste and other contracted services budgets. The Public Health Commission is saving $1.4 million through a number of budget tightening measures; and while their budget continues to grow by more than other departments, BPS has committed to reducing costs in several areas, including significant savings in their transportation budget.

The City’s investment in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) is more robust than ever. According to a report by the US Census Bureau, the Boston Public Schools invest more money per student than any of the 100 largest school districts in the nation. This spring, the School Committee approved a $1.027 billion general fund budget for the Boston Public Schools, an appropriation amount that could go up when the next round of collective bargaining agreements are negotiated. BPS’ budget makes key investments such as expanded access to early education and special education highlighted below.

With BPS facilities, operations, human resources, and transportation systems being designed for past generations of students, and as State and Federal resources have stagnated, BPS cost projections continue to outpace their revenues. These are challenges that Superintendent Chang and Mayor Walsh inherited. To gain the tools necessary to make systematic changes, the City and BPS have launched long-term financial planning; Build BPS, a 10-year school facilities master plan; central office reforms; a fresh approach to collective bargaining; and enhanced State House advocacy.


Through operational reviews, data-driven initiatives, and other planning efforts, the Walsh Administration has identified need for investment in key areas ranging from access to quality early childhood education – a critical piece in closing achievement gaps, to addressing chronic and veteran homelessness, to reducing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response time. Given limited fiscal capacity, this budget achieves savings to support targeted investments that are critical to the Mayor’s strategies aimed at creating a thriving, healthy and innovative city.

The City is also making new capital investments through the Building a Better Boston Capital Plan, which funds improvements to the City’s infrastructure paid for in a large part through annual borrowing. The City is responsible for maintaining a large inventory of capital assets, including roads, bridges, schools, parks, libraries, public safety equipment, city buildings and more. The Building a Better Boston Capital Plan will enhance our neighborhoods, improve mobility, support the academic agenda of our schools and reinforce public safety with quality emergency response tools.


Increasing access to quality early childhood education, investing thoughtfully in special education, and launching excellence for all.

Mayor Walsh is committed to ensuring that every child in Boston gets off to the right start in life. Currently, 90% of Boston’s 6,000 four year olds are enrolled in a preschool program, whether school- or community-based. However, not all programs guarantee well-trained and well-compensated teachers, a high-quality curriculum, a safe and supportive environment and opportunities for family engagement. Mayor Walsh wants to make sure that every preschool option in Boston is high-quality and that all four-year olds in the city are able to participate in the best early learning programming in America. To achieve this goal:

  • Mayor Walsh established a Universal Pre-K (UPK) Advisory Committee to develop initial recommendations for the development of a comprehensive mixed delivery UPK system modeled after BPS’s rigorously tested K1 system. The City is currently exploring ways to initiate quality-improving investments in both school classrooms and community-provider settings;
  • The Mayor’s Office worked with Boston Public Schools to invest in 200 new K1 seats in BPS schools over the last two years. In FY17, the Mayor and Superintendent Chang will invest $3 million to expand BPS K1 programming by another 200 seats; and
  • The Mayor's Education Cabinet collaborated with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and counterparts from Lowell, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Springfield to secure a $15 million federal preschool expansion grant to improve quality in and expand access to community-based programs. $3.5 million of the grant supported the efforts of Boston-based providers in the current school year. The federal government announced a second year of funding for Boston and its partner cities this past fall.

Other investments in education include:

  • Investing thoughtfully in special education
  • Excellence for All initiative


Implementing Boston’s Homeless Action Plan and improving homeless shelter service and safety.

With the publication of the Action Plan to End Chronic and Veteran Homelessness last year, Mayor Walsh reinforced the City’s commitment to continue to care for the most vulnerable populations in our community. The Action Plan calls for a single, integrated homeless system, which will move homeless individuals from Boston's streets and shelters into permanent housing quickly.

As part of the Action Plan, through the Boston Homes for the Brave initiative, Boston has housed 605 homeless veterans since July 2014, and effectively put an end to chronic veterans’ homelessness in Boston. Because of its commitment to ongoing investment in housing and services, Boston has one of the lowest rates of urban, unsheltered street homelessness in the United States; however, as a regional hub for services, the need to continue assisting Boston's homeless has persisted. With the launch of the Action Plan, Mayor Walsh has made a commitment to end chronic individual homelessness by 2018.

To support the Mayor’s Action Plan, the FY17 budget includes an increase of $1.3 million in general funds and $2 million in federal funds to provide front door triage staff at Pine Street Inn, rapid rehousing rental assistance, additional emergency shelter to families, and low barrier permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

Other investments in housing include:

  • Improving homeless shelter service and safety


Delivering exceptional basic city services, helping people move through the city safely and reliably, and building great streets that anchor great neighborhoods.

Through 311 requests, when out in the community, throughout Go Boston 2030 – Boston’s comprehensive transportation planning effort, and elsewhere, the Walsh Administration has heard from residents how much the basics matter. At the heart of this capital plan is a strong investment in essential city services that touch most of our residents. This budget increases Boston’s street resurfacing and sidewalk repair program by nearly $4 million and bridge repair program by over $6 million. Building on the nearly 100 miles of road work performed in the last two years, this investment will be targeted to creating more accessible sidewalks for pedestrians and smoother roads for drivers and cyclists along our major arterials. Increased bridge funding will help prepare spans, such as the North Washington Street Bridge, for more comprehensive capital improvements.

Other investments in mobility include:

  • Investing in Vision Zero, a campaign to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities in our roadways
  • Advancing capital projects to transform areas to reflect the goals of local communities

Environment, Parks, and Open Space

Improving access, enhancing equity, and striving toward excellence.

Parks First is a comprehensive initiative ensuring that Boston’s open spaces are among the nation’s most accessible and equitable. To date, the Walsh administration made an unprecedented investment in Parks, and these capital investments build on that success:

  • A two-year, $5 million dollar investment in pathway and entrance improvements to Boston’s largest open space, Franklin Park, will increase usage and safety. This project is the largest park-only project in Franklin Park in close to a century.
  • Parks First recognizes the need for inclusive design and will launch park renovation projects at Smith Playground in Allston, Noyes Park in East Boston, and Garvey Playground in Dorchester.
  • FY17 will see the beginning of a comprehensive redesign of the 45-acre Harambee Park in Dorchester and Mattapan. The renovation will include environmental improvements, pedestrian pathways, field renovations and entrance improvements.

Other investments in environment, parks, and open space include:

  • Improved park maintenance and safety
  • Expanded park recycling

Prosperity and Equity

Launching the Early Voting initiative, enhancing translation and interpretation services, and supporting small businesses.

Boston will expand access to democracy through the Early Voting Initiative. A vibrant democracy furthers Mayor Walsh’s goal of a thriving, healthy, innovative Boston, and the Early Voting Initiative will increase voting opportunities for all qualified voters in each of the city’s nine council districts for the November 2016 election. With election officials preparing for heavy turnouts and multiple page ballots for the November 2016 Presidential and State election, this initiative will make participation more convenient for all, particularly those who face work schedule, family obligation, or other obstacles to going to the polls.

To ensure equitable access, this investment goes well beyond the state requirement of one early voting site to be open during normal business hours. Boston will implement early voting sites in each City Council District, as well as provide voting opportunities in the evening and on the weekend to better serve voters in every neighborhood.

Other investments in prosperity and equity include:

  • Enhancing translation and interpretation services
  • Supporting small businesses

Arts, Culture, and Creativity

Protecting the library's special collections, building thriving community libraries, and investing in the arts.

The Boston Public Library is committed to its special collections, and has responded appropriately to its 2015 operational review, which cited deficiencies in the inventory of special collections and the necessity for additional actions to secure collections, with the objective of keeping them organized and visible to the public. In FY15, the Library engaged an expert in library and museum special collections to begin an assessment of the Library’s print collection. The work to complete a full inventory of collections then began in FY16. While significant progress is being made, the Library and the City are already focusing on the next steps necessary to address the organization and access challenges of these valuable collections, in advance of the completion of the inventory and assessment work currently underway.

Following the operational review, the Library identified a need to fund additional positions in Special Collections to improve inventory management and re-balance stewardship responsibilities with acquisition efforts. The Library will work with the Associates of the Boston Public Library, a key affiliate organization focused on fundraising support for the conservation, preservation and organization of the Special Collections, to support this work with a goal of furthering the Library’s work to improve stewardship of the Special Collections.

Other investments in arts, culture, and creativity include:

  • Supporting Boston artists using $1 million in BRA public benefit funds
  • Building thriving community libraries
  • Investing in the arts

Health and Safety

Reducing EMS response time, improving addiction services through Boston 311, enhancing community center hours and programming, and revitalizing fire engines and ladders.

Boston emergency medical services (EMS) is widely regarded as being among the most efficient and progressive EMS agencies in the nation. Beyond a focus on providing the best possible care for each patient, Boston EMS prioritizes data collection, reporting and analysis. Over the past several years, the data indicates the need for additional uniformed personnel; since 2008, the amounts of clinical incidents and ambulance transports have risen by 16% and 14%, respectively.

To meet the heightened demand for emergency medical services and to ensure Mayor Walsh’s vision for Boston as the healthiest city in the nation, the administration is investing in additional EMTs and new ambulance vehicles for FY17. This investment is largely funded through additional health insurance claims revenue and reduced EMS overtime. The expansion will allow for two additional day and evening ambulance shifts and one night shift, a total of five additional ambulance tours per day. These investments will result in a number of tangible benefits, including reduced response times, fewer 911 emergency medical calls referred to private ambulance companies, lower overtime costs and expanded surge capacity during major city events.

Other investments in health and safety include:

  • Improving addiction services through Boston 311
  • Enhancing community center hours and programming
  • Revitalizing fire engines and ladders

Innovation and Data

Connecting all Boston Public Schools to the City's fiber network, modernizing public safety, and putting data analytics to work.

The City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology operates a fiber optic network (BoNet) that connects city buildings, schools, libraries, and public safety facilities. This network supports internet connectivity, public safety radio systems, Voice-over-IP phones, traffic signal management, traffic and surveillance cameras, and Wicked Free Wifi. By operating its own network, the City saves millions of dollars per year in telecommunications charges.

The expansion of this network will connect approximately 90 additional public schools to BoNet, reducing costs and making more bandwidth available. The increase of the core network capacity from 1Gb to 10Gb will allow the network to handle growing traffic from video applications, general internet usage, and an increased reliance on network-based applications in schools and City operations.

Other investments in innovation and data include:

  • Modernizing public safety
  • Putting data analytics to work


Mayor Walsh’s FY17 operating budget and capital plan are balanced, responsible, and responsive to the needs of Boston’s residents. The budget builds on the administration’s strong and proactive fiscal management practices, implements department audit recommendations to achieve operational efficiencies and modernize processes, employs data-driven decision making, and continues to address long-term systemic challenges affecting the residents of Boston that have built up over many years. Through thoughtful reforms that achieve savings, and improved utilization of existing funds, Mayor Walsh’s FY17 budget is able to make targeted investments toward achieving a thriving, healthy and innovative city.

More information and data

  • Interactive budget data: visit our Open Budget application to visually interact with our recommended operating and capital budgets.
  • Capital Construction Map: See what we're budgeting to build over the next 5 years. Filter and search by your neighborhood and address.
  • Cabinet and full budget details: To see the rest of the recommended budget -- including the summary budget and cabinet-level budgets -- please visit our website.

A product of the City of Boston, 2016

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