Cambridge City Manager Drafts Budget

City Manager Robert W. Healy presented the budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year at the Cambridge City Council meeting on Monday. The proposed budget, which represents a 2.87 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget, amounts to a total of $488 million.

The council voted unanimously to refer the 643-page budget to the finance committee to be more thoroughly discussed. That body, which consists of the nine members of the City Council, is chaired by Councillor Marjorie C. Decker rather than Mayor Henrietta J. Davis, who leads the Council’s general sessions.

At just short of 30 percent of the total proposed operating budget, education is poised to make up the largest portion of the city’s budget as it has in past years.

The proposal also allocates significant funds to public safety and to community maintenance and development and smaller sums to governmental, intergovernmental, and human resource development spending.

Property taxes will fund more than 65 percent of the budget, by far the largest source of revenue under the proposal.

After that, only charges for services—a category including water and sewage bills—make up more than 10 percent of the budget, at 14.3 percent of the city’s projected revenue.

In Massachusetts, nonprofit organizations, including universities, are not required to pay property taxes. Instead, large institutions send payments in lieu of taxes to cities. In the upcoming fiscal year, Harvard is expected to pay $2.9 million, and MIT is slated for $1.8 million.

Decker praised the city during the meeting for the fact that the property tax rate, which according to the new proposal was $8.48 per $1,000 of property value in 2012, would remain low in Cambridge in 2013. The proposal noted that Cambridge’s rate rested well below its neighbors—in 2012, Somerville and Boston asked more than $13 per $1,000 of property.

"I don’t think there’s many communities in the Commonwealth that can talk about keeping the tax levy at such a low rate and know that even a few months from now, it’ll probably be lower than what we’re suggesting it should be," she said.

Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 noted that the proposed budget has not changed dramatically from last year’s budget.

"I think it’s significant that the number of [city] employees won’t go up or down," he said.

—Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 25

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated in the headline that the City Council drafted a budget. In fact, City Manager Robert W. Healy drafted a budget and presented it for review to the City Council.

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