Metro, Politics

Fuller’s Proposed FY24 Budget Increases Spending by $19.7 Million

The City of Newton’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget will include a $19.7 million increase in funds from the FY23 budget, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s budget address to Newton City Council on Monday. 

“I have prioritized the Newton Public Schools, maintained city operations, continued building projects using the debt exclusion override funding and bonding, and ensured our long-term financial sustainability,” Fuller said.

The budget allocates $499.7 million to the operating budget, $64.7 million to enterprise funds, which will go toward sewer, stormwater, and water services, and $5.6 million to community preservation funds, which will go to affordable housing, community spaces, and historic preservation.

According to the budget calendar, Newton City Council will review the proposed budget and vote on the budget on May 31 at the earliest—June 15 is the latest that the council can pass the finalized FY24 budget, according to the calendar.

Fuller emphasized the budget’s focus on funding Newton Public Schools (NPS) in the face of increased school operation costs and the failure of the operating override during the March 14 special election

“[NPS] is by far our largest department and is effectively receiving the largest increase in the proposed budget,” she said. “The school department has approximately 2,100 positions, and, all in, accounts for 65 percent of our total expenditures.”

The Newton School Committee approved NPS’ $268.7 FY24 budget at its meeting on Thursday, which ensures that elementary class sizes have a maximum of 25 students, keeps the elementary strings and orchestra programs, and allocates some NPS costs, such as health care expenses for retired NPS employees, to the municipal budget, according to Fuller. 

“Even with this additional funding, no one, including the leadership at NPS, the school committee, and me, feels great about the NPS budget … out of approximately 2,100 positions, NPS will have a net decrease of 40 positions next year,” she said. 

Despite the budget shortcomings, Fuller said that the city services budget is investing in a variety of projects and using up the remaining $4.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire a new deputy director for the Newton Center for Active Living (NewCAL) project, invest in streets and sidewalks, and allocate more money for the Newton Police Department and Newton Fire Department.

NewMo, the public ride share service of Newton, may see budget reductions, but funding will remain for the senior portion of the service, according to Fuller.

“The state and regional grants are increasingly difficult to secure,” she said. “We’re rethinking NewMo, including revisions to fares and the rebidding of the service.”

Fuller also addressed the allocation of funds to economic stability and mobility programming for qualified Newton families, such as expanded tax assistance programs and more affordable housing. 

A significant portion of the budget will also go toward city employees, Fuller said.

“Salaries, compensation, and benefits for the city’s approximately 915 full-time and many part-time employees comprise 74 percent of the municipal department budgets,” she said. 

Fuller concluded the address by expressing optimism for the future of the city.

The City of Newton is a wonderful community,” she said. “I am confident that with commitment, collaboration, creativity, and caring, we will thoughtfully execute our responsibilities and come through these times stronger and better.”

May 3, 2023