Yoon, Flaherty oppose, but council OK's budget

$2.4b plan would cut 496 employees

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / June 25, 2009
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Councilors at Large Sam Yoon and Michael F. Flaherty, who are running for mayor, cast the lone dissenting votes yesterday as the Boston City Council overwhelmingly approved an annual city budget that cuts overall spending for the first time in 15 years.

The $2.4 billion budget for the next fiscal year, submitted by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, reduces spending by $26.3 million from last year and triggers the layoff of 496 city employees, including 67 police officers and 74 teachers.

Flaherty’s vote against the budget was his first in nine years in office. He said he voted against it because the Menino administration failed to justify its spending decisions.

“Too many times, the administration revealed that there was a lack of data that was driving these decisions,’’ Flaherty told his colleagues in the council chambers.

Yoon has voted against every budget in his three years in office. He said the city could have saved millions of dollars by removing its fire-alarm boxes, launching a car-sharing program for city workers, and reining in “unsustainable’’ personnel costs and “out of control’’ overtime costs.

“I don’t think it moves the city forward at all,’’ Yoon said. “It keeps the city the same, and, in this day and age, that’s unacceptable.’’

Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman, said it was a “difficult budget’’ necessitated, in part, by a $95 million cut in state aid, the city’s second largest source of revenue after the property tax.

“While we had to make difficult decisions, this budget protects core services and maintains public safety, educational programs, and maintenance that our residents have come to expect and deserve,’’ she said.

Most councilors agreed. “It’s the best that we could possibly do in these dire times,’’ Councilor Maureen E. Feeney said.

But Yoon and Flaherty staked out sharp grievances, listing proposals they have touted on the campaign trail.

Flaherty faulted the mayor for not using budget management software that he said will “squeeze out all waste’’ from city government.

“I’d prefer to support cuts in programs that are not working, before I’d support layoffs of police, teachers, and those that provide critical services to our community,’’ Flaherty said.

Yoon criticized the dismantling of the Boston police Mounted Unit, which city officials say will save $700,000. Yoon said it was “a perfect example of the many low-hanging-fruit sacrifices that we’ve gone after, rather than the real reform that our city so badly needs.’’

The 2010 fiscal year begins Wednesday.