Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller delivered the budget address last Tuesday for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2018. In her speech, Fuller stressed the goal of creating a budget that improves the lives of all Newton community members.
“Our mission is to build a greater, better, and more beautiful Newton to transmit to our children and grandchildren—grounded in our sense of civic duty, inspired by our shared vision, and fueled by our tradition of working together,” Fuller said.
The proposed budget is comprised of $412 million in the operating budget, $62 million in enterprise funds, and $3.5 million in community preservation funds.
Within the budget there are 12 overarching goals aimed at improving Newton, which echo Fuller’s campaign promises. Achieving many of these goals will require cooperation within governmental departments.
The goals include promoting educational equity, increasing security within neighborhoods, focusing on seniors, improving public infrastructure, preserving Webster Woods, increasing affordable housing, promoting vibrant village centers, increasing sustainability, fostering culture, and providing responsive city services.
One of Fuller’s primary concerns is ensuring the financial sustainability of Newton. She emphasized the necessity of fulfilling obligations made by former mayors and city councils, preserving Newton’s financial strength and flexibility, and setting forward-looking and prudent goals.
In order to meet these objectives, the proposal raises the budget by 4.35 percent over that of the 2018 fiscal year. The budget also includes a 2.5 percent increase in the tax levy and a projected 1.3 percent increase in property taxes driven by new growth and redevelopment. Other revenue sources will grow by $2.2 million for a collective $17.2 million increase over the 2018 fiscal year budget.
“We are financially strong. But maintaining and indeed improving our city’s fiscal position and capabilities is critical,” she said. Rooted in Fuller’s goals is her desire to secure the city’s future.
The budget invests particularly in education, seniors, public safety, and employees, who Fuller called “our most valuable asset.”
“It’s in our DNA here in Newton that we care deeply about our children and invest heavily in education,” she said.
The budget allocates a 3.8 percent increase in funding to Newton public schools, which will result in 15.5 new positions and investments in building maintenance and technology.
Additionally, the budget aims to protect the most vulnerable community members. To do so, Newton will add a social worker and summer food program for families who receive meals during the school year. A tax deferral program for seniors will be reviewed in City Council soon.
Fuller identified several areas in which the budget contains severe lack of funding. There is currently $330 million in unfunded pension benefits, and another $638 million in unfunded retiree health insurance. The future budget will have to account for these gaps in funding in addition to the goals proposed, while also making sure to save room for unexpected costs, like snow removal.
Moving forward, Fuller hopes to maintain a constant dialogue with community members to find ways to improve Newton.
“Our City’s greatest strength is our community. Drawing on the strength of our community is essential,” Fuller said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Newton Patch