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City Council Lauds 2020 Budget Proposal

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Housing Overlay Roundtable
Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern at a recent City Council hearing.

Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale submitted a budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 to the City Council Monday, with the largest allocations directed toward education and public safety.

Councilors received the budget on Monday prior to the general meeting. This year's proposals constitute a 5.7 percent increase from fiscal year 2019. It includes more than $200 million earmarked for education, up from $191 million in 2019, and $146 million for public safety, up from $139 million the previous year.

The budget totals more than $678 million in appropriations and amounts to one of the largest budget increases Cambridge has ever seen, according to DePasquale.

“I just want to start off by saying how pleased I am to really present a budget, I feel, has really addressed the fact that we have listened to the City Council and to the public,” he said.

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DePasquale elaborated on the increased education funding, citing initiatives that provide free breakfast to all elementary and upper schools in Cambridge and MBTA passes for low-income high school students who qualify. He described the city’s commitment to education as “second to none.”

Also included in the budget proposal is $20 million to support the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust. This follows recent efforts by the City Council to reform zoning laws to incentivize developers to build affordable housing units. Though DePasquale touted the budget’s success in addressing many of the councilors' recommendations, he acknowledged that it is not perfect — especially concerning affordable housing.

“We have heard from the council, we've heard from the residents that we need more affordable housing, and the city has tried to meet the demand,” he said. “But obviously we need to do more.”

Several councilors voiced their gratitude to the City Manager’s Office. Councilor E. Denise Simmons, who chairs the Council’s Finance Committee, praised the budget and several individuals for their role in compiling and writing the proposal.

“What's great about the budget is it tells the story of Cambridge and in a very succinct way not only from the financial aspect, but just for the service aspect,” she said.

Mayor Marc C. McGovern also commended the City Manager’s Office for its work, and said he believes the city budget accurately reflects the city’s values. He cited Cambridge’s investment in immigrant support, environmentalism, urban forestry, homelessness prevention, education, and affordable housing.

“That doesn't happen by accident,” he said. “And doesn't happen easily.”

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to refer the budget proposal to the Finance Committee for consideration. The Finance Committee hearing to discuss the proposal will convene on May 1, when individual departments will present their budget breakdowns for fiscal year 2020.

McGovern also addressed the expectations of Cambridge residents, saying that while the budget cannot address every city issue, it comes “pretty darn close.”

“It's okay to criticize us when there are things to criticize. I think that's fair,” he said. “But it's also okay to applaud when there are things to applaud. And this budget is worth applause.”

— Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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