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Cambridge City Manager Unveils Nearly $1 Billion 2025 Operating City Budget Proposal

The Cambridge City Council meets in early March at City Hall.
The Cambridge City Council meets in early March at City Hall. By Marina Qu
By Avani B. Rai, Crimson Staff Writer

City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 presented the city’s nearly $1 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2025, along with $36 million in loan order requests and an approximately $74 million capital budget, during a City Council meeting Tuesday.

This year’s proposed operating budget of $955 million marks a more than $70 million increase — an expansion of 8.1 percent — compared to the past fiscal year. The capital budget, however, represents a decrease of more than 50 percent from FY24.

The FY25 budget process follows longtime complaints from the Council that they felt shut out of the process under former city managers — a dynamic Huang pledged to change when he was first appointed to the post in September 2022.

Councilor Patty M. Nolan ’80, who co-chairs the Council’s Finance Committee, thanked the city manager’s team for their efforts in including the Council and Cambridge residents on budget discussions, highlighting the difference from past years.

“I do appreciate the way that we are evolving this process to include the Council earlier on to ensure that we’re having discussions in a way that is inclusive of both the Council and the larger community,” Nolan said. “We did it earlier this year. And then we’re hoping next year, we’ll do it even earlier.”

The City specifically committed $216 million to five key priority areas identified by the Council and Cambridge community at large. These initiatives broadly address climate and sustainability, affordable housing and homelessness, early childhood, traffic safety, and anti-racism, equity, and inclusion.

Of the identified priorities, the most city funding — $73 million — will go toward the city’s climate and sustainability initiatives, which include climate resilience and net zero projects.

The city’s single most expensive line item is $41 million to its Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which, to date, has provided financing for 2,600 affordable rental and homeownership units.

The budget also includes a $34 million allocation to Cambridge’s universal preschool program, set to open in September. The city also proposed more than $23 million in additional funding for Cambridge Public Schools, a 9.5 percent increase to the school department’s budget.

Still, Nolan said there were difficult decisions to be made that were “particularly important this year” before the budget’s eventual adoption.

“There will be trade-offs to be made, which — frankly — the city has not really had to face the last 10 years due to the explosive growth that we saw,” Nolan said.

“There’s many projects in here we’d all love to do,” Nolan said, referencing “reservations” she held regarding the city’s additional loan order requests. “We also recognize that there will have to be choices made,” she added.

Nolan said she was largely concerned about the city’s proposed “capital investments,” as the Council has yet to “actually vet” the orders forwarded by the City Manager.

“There are some projects that may have to be amended, or the scope may have to be changed,” she said.

The City Council is expected to vote on budget adoption and loan order approval on June 5, after three public Finance Committee hearings on the proposals in May.

Owen O’Riordan, the deputy city manager, said these meetings would be especially important for the city to justify the importance of their proposals to the public.

Responding to Nolan’s concerns regarding the loan orders, O’Riordan emphasized that the request of $36 million was a “significant reduction” from the City’s planned loan order amount of $100 million that had been indicated in the 2024 budget.

Claire B. Spinner, the assistant city manager for fiscal affairs, said the budget creation process — which she called one of the city’s “major responsibilities” — was greatly aided by the support of Nolan and fellow Councilor Joan F. Pickett, who served as the second co-chair of the Finance Committee.

“They were quite collaborative,” Spinner said. “It was very helpful to be able to meet with them ahead of each of those meetings, and I think it made those meetings more substantive.”

—Staff writer Avani B. Rai can be reached at Follow her on X @avaniiiirai.

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