How the budget works
The City of Boston’s budget process is governed by the City’s Charter* and practices designed to provide transparency and gather public feedback. The chief executive officer of the City is the Mayor. Martin J. Walsh, the Mayor of the City, was elected to serve his first term from January 2014 through January 2018. The Mayor has general supervision of and control over the City’s boards, commissions, officers, and departments. The portion of the budget covering appropriations for all departments and operations of the City, except the Boston Public Schools, is prepared under the direction of the Mayor. The Boston Public Schools follow a separate process which requires the Superintendent of Schools to propose a budget to the School Committee. The Superintendent submits the School Committee approved budget to the Mayor. The Mayor submits a recommended budget, including the Boston Public Schools budget, to the City Council.
The legislative body of the City is the Boston City Council, which consists of thirteen members serving two-year terms. Four councilors are elected at-large and nine are elected from geographic districts. The City Council may enact ordinances and adopt orders that the Mayor may either approve or veto. Ordinances and orders, except orders for the borrowing or appropriation of money, may be enacted by the City Council over the Mayor’s veto by a two-thirds vote. The City Council may reject or reduce a budget submitted to it by the Mayor, but may not increase it.
* Chapter 486 of the Acts of 1909, and Chapter 452 of the Acts of 1948 of the Commonwealth which, as amended, constitute the City’s Charter.
|Action required||City Charter||FY19 timeline|
|Departments proposed budgets to Office of Budget Management.||No requirement||Late Fall|
|School Superintendent's proposed budget to School Committee on or before 1st Wednesday in February.||Ch. 613 Acts of 1987||2/7/18|
|Mayoral meetings with Departments to discuss funding, policy, and performance.||No requirement||January - March|
|School Committee action taken on budget on or before 4th Wednesday in March.||Ch. 613 Acts of 1987||3/28/18|
|Mayor's recommended budget and capital plan submitted to City Council on or before 2nd Wednesday in April.||Ch. 190 Acts of 1982, as amended by Ch. 701 Acts of 1986, and by practice||4/11/18|
|Public Hearings held prior to budget adoption.||No requirement||April - June|
|City Council action on budget on or before 2nd Wednesday in June.||Ch. 190 Acts of 1982, as amended by Ch. 701 Acts of 1986||6/13/18|
|Mayor's approval of FY18 budget adopted by City Council on or before July 1, 2017.||No requirement||6/27/18 (Last regularly scheduled Council meeting before FY19)|
Budget Presentation (Budget Website and PDFs of Budget Books)
The City of Boston presents a fully integrated budget - including capital, operating, and external funds - to show the total funding available to departments to fulfill their missions. The operating budget funds personnel and nonpersonnel expenses to departments so that they may provide important city services. The capital budget funds new construction or renovations to existing city-owned facilities (e.g., police and fire stations, school buildings), infrastructure improvements (e.g., roads, sidewalks, lights), and major equipment purchases such as fire-fighting apparatus. The external funds budget describes the projects and programs that will be undertaken in the next fiscal year with funding received from the state, federal, or other non-general fund sources.
Organization of the Budget
The City of Boston’s program budget provides information related to City services and their associated costs. The operating and capital budgets present the recommended resource allocations in terms of personnel, facilities, goods, and services. The budget document also describes the services provided by each City department and the performance targets that have been set for FY19.
Departmental Operating Budgets
Activities and services of the City are grouped into programs for budgeting and management purposes. The operating budget for each department is presented by program. A “program” is defined as an organized group of activities directed toward attaining one or more related objectives, and the resources to execute them.
A program can consist of direct services to the public and neighborhoods of the City (e.g. police patrol or tree maintenance), or traditional city staff functions (e.g. administrative services or engineering and design). Some City activities may not be defined as separate programs, even though they may be self contained operations. For example, a fire station is not a separate program, although for accounting purposes it is a cost center within the Fire Department’s Fire Suppression program. Program budgets serve as the basic building blocks of the budget. There are three additional organizational levels above the program level in the budget. The three levels are:
- The Division Level for units within some departments.
- The Department Level, which includes departments, commissions, and other offices.
- The Cabinet Level, which includes functionally-related departments.
Description of Organization and Definition of Categories
This section outlines the information reported within each department and program in the budget.
Department or Division Level
- Department Mission: The mission statement is a fundamental statement of purpose.
- Performance Goals: These goals represent stated aims for which the departmentor division is held accountable.
- Description of Services: The description of services provides a general overview of the department and its responsibilities, and lists examples of major services provided.
- Authorizing Statutes: This section lists statutes and ordinances that create departments as well as endow them with legal powers.
- Operating Budget: The operating budget presentation includes a table displaying total operating and external budgets by program beginning with FY16 actual expenses through the FY19 budget.
- Program Description: This section presents a general overview of the program, including its responsibilities and major services provided.
- Program Goals: Each program identifies the department goals related to the efforts of the program to further the department’s mission.
- Performance Measures: Performance measures demonstrate a program’s progress in implementing their strategies. Performance measures may gauge workload, effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity. Some performance measures also show the changing context in which programs are working.
The financial data tables identify the major groups and expenditure account codes (for example, Personnel Services/Overtime, Supplies and Materials/Office Supplies), historical expenditures in each, and the proposed appropriations in each group and account in FY19. Two financial data sheets are provided for the FY18 operating budget: Department History and Department Personnel.
Expenditure account codes are listed within six expenditure groups. Dollar amounts are shown for:
- FY16 actual expenditures,
- FY17 actual expenditures,
- FY18 appropriations,
- FY19 adopted budgets, and
- The difference between the FY18 appropriation and the FY19 adopted appropriation.
Historical expenditures and the proposed appropriations in these accounts in FY19 are shown. External Funds Projects lists a description of each project’s mission.
The capital budget section provides an overview of projects and major initiatives for departments charged with managing facilities and major equipment assets. Dollar amounts are shown for:
- FY16 actual capital expenditures,
- FY17 actual capital expenditures,
- FY18 estimated capital expenditures,
- FY19 projected capital expenditures
Following this overview are capital project profiles, including descriptions of each project mission, the department managing the project, the status and location of each project, and if there are operating budget impacts. A table summarizes the total capital funds authorized for projected expenditures in FY19 and for future years, as well as whether the source is City authorization or other funding such as federal and state infrastructure grants or trust funds. A listing of actual and planned capital expenditures in comparison to authorized dollars is also provided.