Mayor Thomas Menino recently met with editors of Boston’s various community newspapers to discuss the budget he submitted to the City Council this month and the impacts his FY2011 budget would have on each editor’s respective communities.
In a frank conversation Menino admitted that in the upcoming budget, unlike in years past, many communities would feel the brunt of the state and nation’s fiscal woes.
In East Boston, for example, the proposed closing of the Orient Heights Branch Library due to fiscal constraints has become a hot button issue in the neighborhood. While Menino’s administration has done all it could over the past few years to stave off library, police and fire station and layoffs, the Mayor said this budget more accurately reflects the reality of the times.
And while there’s a political showdown between East Boston elected officials and the Mayor over the library closure, Menino has committed $2.5 million to begin the design of a new branch library.
“It’s not an easy decision to close a library but these are the tough decisions we have to make,” said Menino. “In East Boston we have narrowed our search for a suitable location for a new branch library to four sites and we are committed to bringing a new, state-of-the-art facility to the neighborhood.”
As for the soon-to-be vacant Orient Heights Branch, Menino was told of the community’s concern of having another ‘vacant’ building in a neighborhood that already plays host to a vacant Savio High School, St, Mary School and the Salesian Boys and Girls Club on Paris Street. Residents are concerned that these fairly large parcels have sat dormant for years and are blights in the neighborhood.
“We will form a working committee and will strive for a quick and transparent process to fill that space with a use the entire neighborhood can agree upon,” said Menino.
Also in East Boston, Menino said the third and final phase of improvements to East Boston’s Memorial Stadium would be constructed in FY11. This phase includes improves egress and renovation of the locker rooms and concession stand.
Play lot and landscape improvements will occur at the Sumner and Lamson Playground and the design phase for a new Central Square will be completed in FY11.
Citywide, Menino’s $2.5 billion FY11 and five year $1.5 billion Capital Plan which together was touted as a plan to place the city on firm financial footing for the next five to ten years and focuses on the Mayor’s priorities of building a comprehensive youth development strategy, enhancing government’s personal connection to the neighborhoods and fostering job creation for all job types and income levels. The FY11 budget also targets greater efficiencies and service improvements from all corners of city operations.
“This budget reflects a responsible recovery from one of the nation’s darkest economic periods in history,” said Mayor Menino. “Through the tough choices reflected in this budget, we have been able to provide ourselves with the solid financial footing needed to deliver the best services to our residents for the next several years.”
The $2.5 billion recommended FY 2011 Operating Budget features a modest 2.5-percent growth over last year’s budget and includes a one-time allocation of $45 million from the reserves.
While new revenues in the form of a new .75-percent meals tax and a 2-percent increase in local hotel tax will bring the City approximately $28 million in new revenues, revenue growth for the city has been off-set by significant reductions in state aid ($100 million over 2 years) and program grants ($24 million over 2 years).