City of Salem's FY17 Budget

Investing in public infrastructure, safe neighborhoods, and schools: Salem is focused on the needs of today, with a vision for the future.

Salem City Seal

Introduction

The Salem budget for FY2017 strengthens our commitment to making Salem a working City, a safe City, and a Level 1 City.

A city budget reflects the values and needs of its community. This year the budget increases investments in streets, sidewalks, and infrastructure, adds police services, traffic calming, and a new initiative targeting the opiates epidemic, and continues the forward progress in Salem’s public schools, two of which are now ranked Level 1 by the Commonwealth.

For FY2017, the City will spend $150.9 million to strengthen our community. Nearly $62 million of that, the largest single portion of our budget, is directed toward public schools. It also includes a nearly 600% increase in funding for road and sidewalk repairs, additional police officers and a new opiates intervention program, and some departmental restructuring to better meet the needs of Salem residents.

41% of the budget will go to public schools
600% increase in funding for road and sidewalk repairs

In FY2017 Salem will strive to exceed the service level expectations of our constituents, while also ensuring fiscal prudency. The mission of City government in Salem is to provide open, honest, and pro-active services effectively and efficiently, focusing on the needs of today, with a vision for the future.

The FY2017 budget maintains the City’s dedication to fiscal responsibility while also leading Salem forward. Over the last decade, increases in Salem’s average single family tax bill have ranked among the lowest on the North Shore.Salem’s sound fiscal practices have resulted in the affirmation of the City’s historic high AA bond rating and its regular receipt of recognitions and awards from the Government Finance Officers Association.

Salem is also witnessing a large number of public and private capital investments in the community; these developments enhance Salem’s short and long term economic growth, add to the tax base and generate revenues and jobs that improve Salem’s overall community.

The FY2017 budget identifies non-tax funding sources for certain capital projects and the City will realize this fiscal year a substantial savings on streetlight electrical bills from last year’s conversion to LED fixtures. City departments have, as they do every year, aggressively pursued available grant opportunities whenever possible and have prioritized capital projects on the basis of both need and availability of funding sources besides tax dollars. Since 2006 over $140 million in grant funds have been secured by City staff, equal to nearly a full year’s City budget.

New investment is critical to Salem’s ability to provide essential services to residents and help meet the always increasing amount of fixed costs like pensions, health care and state assessments. Not only do new developments add to local jobs, but by growing the tax base they help lessen the burden on current residential property taxpayers. For Salem to be able to provide the services that residents rightly demand, to be able to meet rising costs on items beyond our control, and to be able to lessen – as much as possible – the tax burden on residents, commercial growth is essential.

Data and technology continue to help guide our efforts to identify cost savings and efficiencies. SalemStat, our data-driven performance management tool helps us track performance and service delivery.. In the year ahead the implementation of CityNexus, for inspectional services and problem properties, and the Visual Budget, for providing public information, will help us advance the use of technology to guide decisionmaking and resource allocations.

Finally, Salem continues to advocate for fair host agreements with nonprofit entities in the City. Our cultural, higher ed and medical institutions do much to help the vibrancy of our community, but they also require services. By working in partnership with these entities, we have developed agreements that provide support for important local needs. We’ll continue to push for strengthening these PILOT/SILOT agreements in ways that benefit our City.

These investments are strategic and focused on ensuring Salem is a City that works for all, that is safe for all, and that offers the best public education possible for all our students.

A Working City

Salem is almost 400 years old and keeping pace with that aging infrastructure is both a necessity and a challenge.

The City’s forward looking Capital Improvement Program funds work on roads and sidewalks, water and sewer, flood mitigation, parks and playgrounds, and more. This year the City will increase its local investment in road repairs from $150,000, to $1 million, a 567% increase. Combined with state funds, this will bring Salem’s paving investment for FY2017 to a record level of over $1.85 million. In addition, funding expressly directed to sidewalk repairs will be increased by 150% for FY2017. Mitigation funding for curb-to-curb repaving on the National Grid cable replacement project route bring the total investment in paving and sidewalks to a historic $3 million.

We know that deferring capital work only increases the cost to address these fundamental needs in later years. From seawalls to water mains, our constituents rely on the infrastructure of our City and we have an obligation to ensure it is maintained, repaired when needed, and upgraded whenever feasible..

A working City means economic growth. From small businesses populating downtown storefronts to utility projects to single entrepreneurs to mixed-use developments to large scale commercial growth, all have an important role in Salem’s progress. When planned well and designed with appropriate oversight, these projects are to Salem’s benefit. They add the housing Salem needs to keep escalating home prices and rents in check. They create local jobs that employ Salem residents and add to the community’s economic vibrancy. They leverage state funds for costly upgrades and improvements to major corridors. And they contribute to Salem’s tax base, lessening the need to look to residential taxpayers to carry the burden.

A Safe City

Salem’s neighborhoods and families will be kept safe through increased community policing , especially to address opiates, new tools for problem properties, and traffic calming and investments in complete streets.

In addition to adding two new police officers, FY2017 will also see the addition of two social workers to the department, as part of a new opiates intervention team. This team, similar to programs already having a positive effect in other cities, will work with law enforcement and addiction specialists to provide direct and pro-active care and services to those in Salem striving to break free of their addiction.

Safe neighborhoods mean doing even more to address blight and problem properties. The City took a positive step forward with the launch of its internal Problem Properties Task Force two years ago. Another positive step came last year with the launch of the receivership program to rehabilitate the most egregious abandoned residential properties. In FY2017 Salem will launch CityNexus, a software tool that folds predicative analytics into a data-driven system that allows for enhanced cross-department communication and response.

Lastly, a heightened focus on traffic calming and encouraging alternative transportation options will be led by the new Director of Traffic and Parking. There is new funding for traffic calming projects – from signage and striping to physical changes to slow traffic – and for additional bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety enhancements. A safe city includes gathering places where neighbors walk, play and form social ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods.

A Level 1 City

The proposed operating budget increases funding to Salem’s schools by 3.6%, or $1.9 million.

Funding for Salem’s schools is reflected in a number of different sections of the budget, beyond the regular operating budget for public education. Altogether, the total investment in Salem’s schools and students is over $62 million this coming fiscal year.

Since FY2013 spending on Salem schools has increased by over 8.4%, one of the largest increases for any department or part of Salem’s budget. There are still challenges ahead, but parents and all residents can be confident that the Salem Public Schools are on the right track, and that the City’s growing financial commitment to the schools is paying off in the educational successes now being realized by Salem's kids.

For FY2017 the District is proposing to add teacher coaches at the high school for STEM and literacy, as well as provide new support for differentiated instruction, extended learning time,

The FY2017 school budget is focused on the continued implementation of the district’s Accelerated Improvement Plan, including an emphasis on improving student achievement and support for teacher leadership, new technologies, expanded learning time, and and other academic initiatives that will continue to support teachers and students.

There will be a continued close collaboration with community partners, most importantly our teachers and families , as well as monitoring of student progress to ensure greater accountability and help make certain that all actions are being driven by what is best for Salem’s kids.

FY2017 Capital Improvement Plan

The FY2017 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) enables the City to better plan investments in equipment, projects, and infrastructure.

When working in a city that is almost 400 years old, a sound CIP ensures that we are re-investing in Salem’s facilities, equipment, and vehicles so that the City may continue to deliver the highest level of services to our residents.

Infrastructure, parks and playgrounds, roadways and sidewalks, public safety equipment, and technological improvements are at the core of the CIP. Projects are ranked based upon priority and their ability to leverage other funding sources, like grants and state aid, as well as their ability to reduce long-term operational costs to the City.

The FY2017 CIP totals $26.5 million, the largest single piece of which is $15 million for the second phase of the Canal Street flood mitigation project. The remaining funding is going to a wide variety of essential projects, including:

  • Historic preservation projects Old Town Hall, Fort Pickering, the Dickson Chapel, and the Salem Common.
  • Park and playground upgrades at Collins Cove, Forest River Park, Mack Park, Memorial Park, Gallows Hill Park, Salem Willows, and the Bentley School.
  • City-wide seawall repairs, a Tree Master Plan and tree planting, and ADA beach accessibility projects.
  • Police vehicles and radios, fire station upgrades, and fire personal protective equipment.
  • Design of major corridor upgrades for Boston Street and the last portion of Bridge Street from Flint Street to Washington Street.
  • A historic 600% increase in road paving and sidewalk repairs generally City-wide, including a project to repair Essex Street from North Street to Washington Street.
  • Bike Path design and construction and the Bike Master Plan Update, pedestrian safety upgrades downtown and in South Salem, general City-wide traffic calming measures, and intersection safety improvements at Bridge & Winter Streets, First Street & Swampscott Road, and Lafayette Street & the Bike Path.

Closing

The people of Salem deserve an appropriate level of public investment in public infrastructure, in safe neighborhoods, and in the schools.

A 1912 report by the Salem City Plans Commission looked at everything from housing to transportation to public spaces. This year, over a century later, Salem will embark on a similar initiative, a City Visioning Project. In their closing thoughts from the 1912 report, the Commission reflected:

Vision we must have and a united vision so great that what Salem ought to be will come to pass. Only by solving the problems of transportation, street and housing congestion, recreation and public health rightly and reasonably soon, will the greatest industrial and commercial expansion be possible. Yet, ought not our ideal to be on ever higher grounds than these, in fact nothing less than building our city into a real ‘dwelling’ place, with happy homes and attractive home surroundings for all our citizens?

Salem’s FY2017 budget answers that question with a clear yes. To achieve that vision, the people of Salem deserve an appropriate level of public investment in public infrastructure, in safe neighborhoods, and in the schools. Growth is necessary to achieve this goal and collaboration is necessary for that growth to take place.

Salem turns 400 years old in 2026 and now is the time to think about what our community should be and look like in that next decade.

The FY2017 budget is a reflection of that goal. Salem is a working City, a safe City, and a level one City. The FY2017 budget will help ensure that it will be all of these on its 400th birthday in ten years’ time. It is truly a budget that, effectively and efficiently, focuses on the needs of today, with a vision for the future.