Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller presented the proposal of Newton’s fiscal year 2023 budget—which expands the city’s spending on schools and municipality departments—to the Newton City Council on Tuesday.
The $480 million operating budget—spanning from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023—increased by $17.3 million from the previous fiscal year. Its major components include $262 million allocated to Newton Public Schools, $61 million to water, sewer, and stormwater enterprise funding, and $5.6 million to community preservation funds.
Fuller presented the budget to the City Council on Zoom after testing positive for COVID-19, while some councilors attended the meeting in person at Newton City Hall.
Fuller said that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hinder the city’s revenue, manifesting in both modest increases in federal and state funding and lower tax revenues compared to pre-pandemic levels. Her administration wrote in a written analysis of the budget that the effects of the pandemic will have less of an impact on the city’s revenue in coming years.
Fuller said her administration also took initiatives to increase funding for the budget following the pandemic, such as employing city workers for yard waste collection instead of outsourcing the work.
Fuller said that the city will use $3 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase its $480 million operational budget. Fuller also announced that the city will allocate an additional $2 million in ARPA funds to support residents facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city has committed about $32 million out of its $63.2 million of available ARPA funding.
Fuller has also said that despite the city’s reduced revenue sources following the pandemic, it must taper its use of ARPA money.
“Otherwise, Newton would face a dangerous financial cliff of our own making,” Fuller said. “Additionally, we are prudently holding some ARPA funds in reserve in case we experience another nasty turn from the virus and, with it, the need to make additional investments.”
The city’s FY2023 budget will follow a similar principle of prudence, according to Fuller.
“Despite a 3.5 percent increase for the Newton Public Schools budget and a 3.0 percent increase for the municipal departments, we still had to make difficult choices this year,” she said. “This budget balances our ambitions for Newton with our fiscal reality. Pragmatism must continue to guide us as we navigate complex economic trends.”
The City Council will deliberate on the budget in the upcoming weeks and will vote on it in late May, according to a calendar on the city’s website.