The Newton Board of Alderman passed Mayor Setti Warren’s $382 million fiscal year 2013-2014 budget proposal in a unanimous vote earlier this week.
The budget includes money more than 50 new teachers and eight additional city workers, road improvements and new buildings. The budget was boosted by the voters’ approval earlier this year of an annual $11.4 million tax increase.
The approved budget is $18.1 million, or 5.3 percent, larger than the spending plan approved for this year.
Under the approved budget, residents will also see increases in their water and sewer bills. Newton began increasing its rates by an average of 4 percent last year to fix miles of aging and cracked pipes and plans to continue the increases for the next decade.
For the 2013-2014 fiscal year the average household will see its water and sewer bill increase by 3.9 percent, from $1,613 to $1,676 annually.
While support for the budget was unanimous, some aldermen raised concerns about Warren’s proposal to create a new director of sustainability position. Warren pitched the position as a way for the city to increase its energy efficiency and become more environmentally friendly.
The position is being created by eliminating a building project manager position with an environmental focus in the public buildings department. The new position will pay $92,829 a year.
But some aldermen were concerned that the administration’s description of the sustainability director’s job duties was too vague, cribbed from the City of Philadelphia and not geared toward Newton’s needs.
Alderwoman Deb Crossley said the administration has agreed to work with local environmental leaders and the aldermen to come up with more specific job duties before advertising the position.
"It’s a well-intentioned idea and you have to make it work for Newton," Crossley said.
Warren said he was pleased by the unanimous support of his budget plan which, "makes real progress in education, public safety and infrastructure."
As for the environmental sustainability director position, Warren said the city wants to expand on its success in saving money through environmentally sound practices. He brushed aside criticisms that the job description was too vague and taken from other communities.
"We take the best practices out there and scale it to Newton," Warren said.
He said he hopes to advertise the job in the next month.
Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org