City councillors last week unanimously approved Mayor Thomas Menino’s final spending bill, which, for fiscal year 2014, consists of a $2.6 billion operating plan and a five-year $1.8 billion capital plan. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which began on Monday, focuses on education, housing, and online learning.
As the Boston Public Schools prepare for 1,200 new students this fall – the highest enrollment in eight years – the school budget for fiscal year 2014 was set for $937.4 million, an increase of $57 million over last year. New to the budget this year is a $30 million “Quality Improvement Fund,” which aims to update facilities, upgrade technology, and improve teacher quality.
Menino’s Housing Boston 2020 initiative is set to launch, promising 20,000 to 30,000 units by the year 2020 to meet the needs of Boston’s growing population.
For BPS, the Boston Public Library system, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families, digital learning will take center stage this fiscal year. More than 10,000 additional mobile computing devices will be available for student use; community centers will offer blended learning courses; and an iPad-lending program for residents is in the works.
New projects, gathered under the theme “Cities are Neighborhoods,” include the continuing development of Dudley Square, expected to be completed in the fall of 2014; a new park in the Charlestown Navy Yard for children with physical disabilities; and the rehabilitation of the BPL Johnson Building at the central branch in Copley Square.
The 13-member City Council approved the budget on June 26. At the same meeting, District 4 City Councillor Charles Yancey again mounted a push for a new high school in Mattapan.
A top priority for the longtime councillor, Yancey’s $115 million loan order for a high school on the grounds of a former state hospital failed on an 8 to 5 vote. According to the tally put together by Yancey’s office, supporters of his loan order included Councillors At-Large John Connolly, Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo, as well as District 7 Councillor Tito Jackson. Opponents included City Councillor At-Large Stephen Murphy, District 1 Councillor Mark Ciommo, District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan, District 3 Councillor Frank Baker, District 5 Councillor Rob Consalvo, District 6 Councillor Matt O’Malley, and District 8 Councillor Michael Ross.
Halfway through this fiscal year, in January of next year, the Menino administration will leave City Hall to make way for a new mayor.