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Residents invited to community budgeting process

Posted by boston.com  February 4, 2014 10:00 AM

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The following was submitted by the City of Somerville:

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone invites Somerville residents to participate in a Community Budgeting process focused on four key investment areas identified by the community in the SomerVision plan: Recreation, Public Health, Arts and Culture, and Civic Engagement including Immigrant Outreach. 

While areas including education, infrastructure, public safety and public works remain budget priorities, resident feedback and values reflected in the City’s 20-year comprehensive plan, SomerVision, have indicated that residents also want to see enhancements to the key areas listed above. To begin this work, for the first time, City officials will engage residents in a Community Budgeting process beginning with the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. Three public meetings will be held to help put these goals into action. 

At each, fun (yes, seriously, fun) interactive activities will help residents learn more about how municipal budgeting works. Feedback will then be gathered to help guide the investments made both for the fiscal year 2015 budget as well as for long-range planning for these four key SomerVision goals. 

“As I said in my inauguration speech, when this year’s budget is presented to the Board of Aldermen, it will not be my budget, it will be our budget,” said Mayor Curtatone. “This budget and our long-range fiscal planning should reflect what the Somerville community wants to accomplish and what we value. To guide the investments we make, we spent three years asking the community to identify goals and values via SomerVision. Now, to put those goals into action, we need your ideas—the crazier the better—and by ‘crazy’ I mean innovative, creative and outside-the-box thinking. In other words, the kind of ideas that make us Somerville.”

To put potential investments into context and to help increase budget literacy, participants will have a chance to spend “Somerville bucks” on City services and compare their spending to an actual City budget. City officials will also share information about the decisions that go into making the budget, various spending and revenue constraints, and the trade-offs that have to be made in funding services and programs (again, yes, seriously, this will be fun). Following short, dynamic PechaKucha-inspired presentations around Recreation, Public Health, Arts and Culture, and Civic Engagement/Immigrant Outreach, residents will take part in brainstorming and idea-gathering activities for enhancements in each area.

“Arts Council programs can include so many things, from large festivals like ArtBeat, to cooking classes, youth programing, public art, and policy work to promote the arts,” said Arts Council Director Greg Jenkins. “Given the diversity of what we do, we really need to hear from residents about what they’d like to see more investment in and get their creative ideas around new things we could try.”

Ideas gathered at the meetings and via additional community outreach will then be put to vote via a community survey. The Community Budgeting webpages on the City website also offer an opportunity to learn about the budget and take the post-meeting surveys. Visit the webpage at www.somervillema.gov/ourbudget and follow www.facebook.com/SomervilleCity and www.twitter.com/SomervilleCity for updates.

This year’s meetings represent Phase I of the City’s Community Budgeting effort to translate general SomerVision goals into concrete plans. Further discussions of the four key areas for 2015 as well as other SomerVision priorities will be addressed at future Community Budgeting sessions.

“No idea is too big or too small,” said Mayor Curtatone. “While we are specifically looking for community input on our fiscal year 2015 investments and projects, we are also looking to set our course for the long-range as well. So whether you’d like to see more language interpreters at public meetings right away or if you want a community center built in the future, we want to hear your ideas. SomerVision is not just a document to set aside to gather dust and to point to when we talk about adhering to the community’s values. We will work to ensure that we follow through on the vision and goals it sets forth. These meetings are a step toward realizing specific priorities, and the information we gather will be fully integrated into our planning.”

Community Budgeting Meetings will be held on:
Monday, Feb. 10 (snow date Thursday, Feb. 27), 6:30 p.m., at the West Somerville Neighborhood School, 177 Powderhouse Blvd.; 
Monday, Feb. 24 (snow date Thursday, March 6), 6:30 p.m., at the Capuano Early Childhood Center, 150 Glen St.; 
Saturday, March 1 (snow date Saturday, March 8), 11 a.m., City Hall, 93 Highland Ave. 

Each community feedback session will offer the same content, and each has been scheduled before department heads have to submit their final budget proposals so that resident input can be considered.

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