Mayor’s budget plan adds $1m to fix roads

Residents in several Newton villages — including Nonantum, Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, and Newtonville — would see their roads and sidewalks paved as part of Mayor Setti Warren’s spending plan for next fiscal year, in a budget that relies on a heavy infusion of additional money from the recent voter-approved property tax increase.

The $382 million proposal, which Warren presented last week, includes an extra $1 million for road and sidewalk improvements that were promised as part of the Proposition 2½ override package.

Among the roads that the city would tackle if the budget is approved are parts of Washington Street, Centre Street in Newton Highlands and Newton Centre, and Hawthorn and Craft streets in Nonantum. In all, the budget aims to pave 8 miles of road, and replace or install a mile of sidewalk.

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The municipal budget proposal, the last of Warren’s first term in office, is $18.1 million, or 5.3 percent, larger than the spending plan approved for this year. The budget drawing from the general fund is $331 million, with the balance involving funds from storm-water, sewer, water, and Community Preservation Act coffers.

“This is 3½ years of work,” Warren said of his budget proposal. The mayor is running for reelection in November.

The budget, which must be approved by the Board of Aldermen, includes at least eight new positions and additional money for new buildings, a far cry from Warren’s previous spending plans, which had required cuts to positions. Many of the new items were part of the $11.4 million override package approved by voters last month.

On the municipal operations side of the budget, the additional tax money would be used to hire four new police officers. The school district plans use some of the money approved in the override to hire 52 more teachers and staff.

The budget also sets aside $2.4 million to help pay for a new Zervas Elementary School and Fire Department buildings. The package approved by voters also included money to rebuild the Angier and Cabot elementary schools, but tax increases for those two projects won’t kick in before later this year, said Maureen Lemieux, Newton’s chief financial officer.

But Newton officials want to boost staff to help oversee all these construction projects. Warren’s budget proposal includes more project managers and engineers in the city’s Public Buildings Department.

The city will also put additional focus on economic development by creating a high-level management position to encourage businesses to set up shop in Newton, Warren said.

Several new stores and businesses have opened on Route 9 in recent weeks, and construction is ongoing on the Chestnut Hill Square development, where a new Wegmans grocery store is slated to open at the end of the year. But the city is also trying to encourage a mixed-used project at the Austin Street parking lot in Newtonville, Warren said.

“A robust economic development effort is vital to the city’s long-term health,” Warren wrote in his budget message.

Under his proposal, most city employees would receive a salary increase, in line with the negotiated contracts.

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