Councillors Bemoan Budget Cuts

State-wide budget slash affects local healthcare, education, safety

The Cambridge City Council discussed the state-wide budget cuts exceeding one billion dollars at the weekly town hall meeting yesterday. The decrease in state funding will affect many local programs in public health, safety, and education, according to a report prepared by the City Manager, Robert W. Healy.

“Even though this is bad news, we have only just begun,” said Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87, the vice mayor of the City of Cambridge. He said that the income generated by the capital gains tax is expected to be reduced by at least $750 million in the fiscal year of 2009, citing the data presented at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Massachusetts governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 implemented the budget cuts on Oct. 15, as a response to an estimated state budget deficit of $1.4 billion. The deficit has been caused by the current economic slowdown and the corresponding decline expected in state revenue, according to Patrick’s press statement.

Among the affected Cambridge initiatives are the Cambridge Health Alliance, the Center for Families, and the North Cambridge Crime Task Force.

CHA, a Harvard-affiliated public hospital system that operates in more than 20 locations in the northern Boston metropolitan area, had its funding cut by $55 million. The Alliance, which had begun to lay off 9 percent of its workforce before the budgetary reduction, is trying to find new ways of financing its activities.

Patrick’s fiscal action plan reduces the funding for North Cambridge Crime Task Force by roughly 25 percent, but the program will be able to survive in its current form at least till the end of 2009, according to the City Manager’s report. Community Policing Grant, which allows the Cambridge Police Department to fund various local policing strategies, had its funding decreased by 25 percent as well.

“We have no control over the cuts the state has made,” said Timothy J. Toomey, a city councillor and a state representative. “I think every agency is going to share the pain,” he added.

Murphy said it is very unlikely that the city is going to fully replace the state funding with its own financial support in the future. He added that the budget for the fiscal year of 2010 might require cuts in local aid, in addition to the considerable state cuts already assessed.

But Toomey did not rule out the possibility that the city could partially balance the funding of different agencies in 2010. He said that any such actions would be decided upon after budget hearings in April.

—Staff writer Michal Labik can be reached at labik@fas.harvard.edu