House Budget -- Bad News For Boston

Down, down, down go the numbers, ever lower, lower....

Bottom line: total state aid to Boston in the FY 2010 House Budget released today is $76.2 million less than what was budgeted for Boston in FY'09, and $53.2 million less -- 12% less -- than what Boston actually received in FY '09, after mid-year "9C" cuts.

It is also roughly $30 million less than what's assumed in Mayor Menino's FY'10 city budget, submitted earlier this month to the council. Menino's budget assumed 10% less than FY'09 budgeted aid to Boston. But FY'09 actual aid after 9C cuts was already down $23m, and now they're cutting that down another 12%.

Don't get too depressed yet -- this isn't even the final House version of the budget, and we've still got many steps left to go. Still, get a little more depressed than you were about the city's budget.

I spoke this afternoon with city councilor Mark Ciommo, who is chairing the budget hearings -- which start tomorrow with the assessing department, BTW. He had not had a chance to review the House Budget, but says he is not surprised that the numbers are bad. On the other hand, he would not be surprised to see the numbers change again, either up or down. For example, the House Budget raises no taxes and draws nothing from the rainy-day fund; the Senate version may very well do one or both. "We're very preliminary in the process," he says.

Menino and his numbers people (eg, Lisa Signori) will now have to decide whether to respond to these new figures, or wait until the process plays further out. If they choose to alter the budget proposal, they could do so by putting in a draw from reserves to make up the difference -- which they're not keen on -- or by making further cuts and, presumably, more layoffs. Tough choices. No word yet from hizzoner. (Also, these new figures may put more pressure on the bigcity unions to accept Menino's wage-freeze proposal. We'll see.)

Returning to the new budget draft, with help from someone at House Ways & Means, I have the following understanding of what the House budget does to Boston.

Chapter 70 aid for education is level-funded at the same $221.4m as last year.

The House has combined the other two types of local aid -- lottery and "additional assistance" -- into a single "unrestricted general aid" figure. For each city and town, it then slashed that by 25% compared to FY'09.

Boston normally gets a very large share of the state's "additional assistance" funding, so it got hurt there. On the other hand, it gets a LOT of Chapter 70 funding, which wasn't slashed.

So overall, Boston is slated to receive 12% less than in it actually received in FY'09 (after 9C cuts) -- whereas Cambridge, for example, is getting roughly 18% less. Somerville is down 14%, Medford 13%. So... Boston isn't shafted as much, percentage-wise, as some other communities. So that's something, right?

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