Projects for Dot hang on in budget

Dorchester projects on the capital side of the city budget will remain largely untouched, with $200,000 for the Murphy Community Center, $400,000 for the Martin tot lot and $947,000 for renovations to the Adams St. Library, according to city officials.

Dorchester Ave. is still expected to receive $15 million for an accelerated construction pace to rework traffic flow at several sections and increase pedestrian safety, thanks in part to federal stimulus funds. Money is also included for the Great Hall in Codman Square.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that on the operating side, the fiscal 2010 city budget — approved last week by the City Council— declines by $26.3 million to $2.4 billion, after the city received a 25 percent cut in aid from the state. The city depends heavily on both state aid and revenue from property taxes.

State revenues have sharply nosedived, forcing state officials to constantly scramble to revise estimates of how much to they expect to pull in. Lawmakers voted to hike the sales tax to 6.25 percent from 5 percent and to allow cities and towns to impose an additional 2 percent on the state meals tax.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said District Three Councillor Maureen Feeney, who has served on the council since 1994.

“On balance, it’s really a bare-bones budget,” said District Four Councillor Charles Yancey. “It’s a status quo budget.” Said Councillor At-Large John Connolly: “This was a battle to minimize pain,” said, pointing to the budget’s avoidance of laying off a large portion of police officers and teachers.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law this week a $27.4 billion budget, which included $4 billion for education.

Councillors signed off last week on Mayor Thomas Menino’s budget by an 11 to 2 vote – with two Councillors At-Large, Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, both mayoral candidates, voting against the budget.

“The approach to the public is what I voted against,” Yoon told the Reporter. “From beginning to end, the process just doesn’t work.”

Yoon, who has also voted against the last three fiscal budgets, said the budget is conceived within the mayor’s office, with little input from the public. He said he would have budget hearings in neighborhoods before the budget is released, as other cities do.

“Those in Dorchester will get specifically listened to,” he said.

Yoon added that the budget also did not include reforms that would potentially lead to savings, such as stricter management of overtime and the removal of obsolete fire signal boxes around the city.

Yancey complained that the budget did not increase the number of youth workers to reduce youth violence, but said Yoon was off the mark in his criticism.

“I think he misses the point, misses the mark by focusing on that issue,” Yancey said. “Every member of the City Council has the opportunity to offer amendments.”