Last week, Mayor Thomas Menino delivered his $2.4 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2013 and five year $1.8 billion Capital Plan that includes the completion of several projects in East Boston as well as the beginning of other major improvements here. Some of the projects in Eastie are part of a $217 million in new FY 2013 project authorizations.
Menino called this year’s budget a reinforcement of his priorities to build a comprehensive youth development strategy, enhance government’s personal connection to the neighborhoods and foster job creation by emphasizing collaboration among government, business and non-profit leaders.
The biggest project to get FY 2013 spending in Eastie will be the neighborhood’s new library on Bremen Street. Menino announced that project will break ground on April 25 and is expected to open in fall 2014. The project is budgeted at $17.4 million with $10.1 million in city money (Bonds), and the rest from the state.
Also highlighted in the FY 2013 budget is the Parks Department’s completion of $11 million in renovation to the East Boston Stadium. The Parks Department will also begin planning this year for an $850,000 renovation to the Paris Street Playground.
Another Parks Department project mentioned in the FY 2013 budget is an overhaul to the American Legion Playground that includes a new synthetic turf field, new play courts and bleachers. Construction probably won’t begin this fiscal year, but the city is budgeting for planning and design as well as the demolition of the old clubhouse. Also the Sumner-Lamson Playground is going to get $435,000 worth of renovations, mostly to the play lot, this upcoming year.
Capital improvements for Eastie infrastructure includes a new roof for East Boston High School funded at $3.2 million and exterior masonry work and a new roof at Distict-7 Police Station. That project will cost $1.86 million.
“We are perhaps the strongest city in the nation right now – our finances are stable, our economy is growing, and our neighborhoods are vibrant,” said Menino. “The FY 2013 budget supports what got us here and pushes us to go further. We will continue to invest in our strengths, build relationships, and engage our partners in a way that helps expand access to quality schools, empower neighbors to engage in their communities, promote healthy living, and ensure Boston’s prosperity for years to come.”
The $2.4 billion recommended FY 2013 Operating Budget features a 2.5-percent growth over last year’s budget, an increase of $60 million. Property taxes continue to be the City’s largest source of revenue, along with hotel, meals and other excise tax revenue. The City’s second largest source of revenue, net state aid from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is expected to decline by nearly $8 million from FY 2012 budgeted levels. This perpetuates the loss of state aid incurred over the last six years, now estimated to be about $149 million lower than FY 2008.
One of the biggest savings for the City of Boston and many municipalities in the Commonwealth this year, in a stark contrast to last year, is the cost of employee health care. Thanks to the groundbreaking municipal health care agreement the City reached with union leaders last spring, slowing the growth of healthcare costs by more than $70 million over four years. Still, in FY 2013 the City has budgeted $289 million for health insurance premiums for city employees and retirees – nearly 12-percent of the total budget.
“Careful planning and thoughtful decisions – in many cases very difficult decisions – over the last several years have positioned Boston for greater success as economic recovery takes hold,” said Menino. “Through collaboration among City departments, partnerships with nonprofit and community groups, as well as capital investments, we will continue to win Boston’s future.”