It's time to do more with less

In a few short weeks, on April 8, my administration will present the City of Boston's preliminary budget for fiscal year 2010 to the City Council. In crafting budget proposals for next year, I have challenged all departments to do more with less during these difficult economic times. As I shared in my recent address to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, I am pursuing a three point strategy to stabilize the city's budget and move Boston forward. This plan focuses on: 1) reforms and cost cutting measures in city government; 2) responsible use of reserves and funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; and 3) shared sacrifice in order to minimize the impact of layoffs.

While reducing discretionary spending and instituting a strategic hiring freeze have produced significant savings, Boston still faces a $130 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2010. To begin closing this anticipated gap, we will consolidate services and eliminate activities that are non-essential. For example, the Boston Public Library will move the services of the Kirstein Business Branch to the central branch at Copley Square, strengthening resources for entrepreneurs and saving $250,000 annually. The city will also close its printing operations, resulting in a savings of over $400,000 next year and $1 million every year thereafter. Other reforms include eliminating a layer of management in the city's community centers to save over $500,000 annually, and restructuring management in the Boston Fire Department in order to protect frontline services. Similarly, Boston Public Schools will reduce central office management in order to protect teachers.

Additionally, the city will tap reserve funds to narrow the budget gap further. However, just as you have to be prudent with your personal savings, the city must use rainy day funds responsibly so that we maintain savings for the future. The use of reserve funds will be supplemented with one-time funding from the federal Recovery Act to further bridge the FY 2010 budget gap. Having been awarded approximately $147 million in federal funds thus far, the city is allowed to use $21 million of this funding toward next year's operating budget.

Finally, I continue to call on Boston's municipal union leaders to bear a share of the financial burden to help keep Boston on solid footing. I thank the eight unions that have demonstrated their commitment to Boston's residents by accepting the one year wage freeze proposal. I was especially encouraged that the 1,239 member union AFSCME, which represents employees who provide basic city services, has agreed to forgo a wage increase for its membership next year. This sacrifice will allow the city to protect nearly 50 jobs. If all unions accept a wage freeze, we would save $55 million next fiscal year to help protect core services. Without the cooperation of union leadership, we will be forced to lay off roughly 700 employees, including over 100 teachers from the Boston Public School system.

Despite the economic realities, I am committed to delivering a plan that saves jobs and protects core services, stabilizes the public sector, and helps the private sector grow. I have presented a plan aimed at addressing the city's budget challenges, and my administration will continue to prioritize investments that protect residents and give Boston's economy opportunities for growth. The crisis we're facing is unprecedented, but I am confident in our collective ability. If we take action together, we can rise to meet the goals of the future. Thankfully, Boston confronts these challenges from a position of real strength.