The City Council on Wednesday approved a $3.76-billion budget for non-school departments and a $1.3-billion school budget for the fiscal year that started today.
The council voted 10-2 to approve each budget.
Had the council not approved the budget, city departments would have had to operate on a month-to-month basis using last year's budget. Several councilors said they were voting for both budgets to avoid this, in particular for BPS, because that would mean the school department would be unable to hire 95 new social workers to help kids readjust to school in the fall.
The votes came after last-minute dealing between acting Mayor Kim Janey and councilors resulted in Janey proposing a $32-million "supplemental" budget, carved out of the $450 million in federal recovery funds the city will get, with much of that going towards increasing city funds for acquiring and preserving affordable housing. The extra money will also help pay for trying to solve the problems at Mass and Cass.
City Councilors Michelle Wu (at large) and Andrea Campbell (Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale) voted against the overall city budget, saying that while it does some good things, it simply doesn't go far enough at a time when residents are demanding fundamental changes after going through a year of hell.
Wu said the city needed "a transformational approach" on such things as the housing crisis and police overtime but that the budget the council and acting Mayor Kim Janey came up really only addresses "small things."
Campbell pointed to Mass and Cass and the police department as two areas where the city is worse off today than it was a year ago, that by not really standing up to Janey, the council is accepting the status quo, especially when it comes to police reform - and not just on overtime, but on a culture that allowed somebody like Patrick Rose to stay on the job. She said Mass and Cass just grows worse, nobody in the administration will talk to her and a task force set up by the prior administration to deal with the issue basically no longer exists.
The council also voted 10-2 to approve the school budget, with Campbell joined by Frank Baker (Dorchester) in voting no.
Campbell used similar arguments for opposing that budget. She pointed to the Sarah Greenwood School in Dorchester, which is in dire need of upgrading - it still has asbestos in it - as an example of how government is not working for its citizens. She said parents have been pleading for something simple - a swing set for kids to play on, and they keep getting put off.
Baker, who at times seemed to as upset about getting laid off from the city print department 11 years ago as about the school budget - he kept bringing it up - said he is sick to death that "90% of the air in the room" is taken up by "Latin, Latin Academy and the O'Bryant School." What about third, fourth and fifth graders, he asked. What about all the under-performing schools? He said he supports a state education official who wants to withhold at least part of the $400 million BPS is supposed to get from the federal government, in part because the council will have no say in how the money will be spent and an unelected task force will instead make recommendations to a School Committee he said is not accountable to anybody.
"We aren't any better than we were 10 years ago," he thundered, accusing the Boston Teachers Union of fighting against other workers, in particular school police, but said that's just part of "the trajectory of the school department as a whole" to fight against other municipal workers.
And while he said he's tired of all the attention given to the exam-school issue, he said he's sick of how the task force looking at how to increase racial equity in the three schools is pitting neighborhoods against each other. "Quite frankly, the neighborhoods that look like me look like they're gonna lose," Baker, who is white, said.
Earlier, during the discussion on the non-school budget, Baker said he was upset that school and municipal police, who do not carry weapons, might not have jobs tomorrow. What would happen, he asked, if a maniac broke into the council chambers and attacked Councilor Kenzie Bok, chair of the committee that deals with budgets? Baker mused it would be his job to pull the attacker off Bok - he sits next to her in council chambers - but he added he'd rather it not come to that.
Also voting for the both budgets was Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown), who has been leading a fight to get the council more say in the budget process - and to give the council the authority to demote an acting mayor back down to city-council president.
She criticized "this merry go round, this little farce we've done one too many times" when it comes to the budget, but added, the budget "will pass, like a kidney stone."