Town Council Lays Out Budget Priorities for Fiscal Year 2017

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The Watertown Council has included dealing with storm water infiltrating the Charles River, funding the social services resources position and bolstering the town’s Planning Department to handle the development boom in town.

Those areas, along with the long-standing areas of schools, public safety and streets and sidewalks, made the Fiscal 2017 budget priorities announced by Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli at last week’s Town Council meeting. See the entire Budget and Fiscal Oversight subcommittee report by clicking here.

The priorities were created by the subcommittee after holding meetings in November and early December. Councilor Tony Palomba said he would like to find out how to have more suggestions of Councilors not on the committee included in the budget priorities.

While the items that will be the focus of the 2017 budget have been laid out, the priority order has yet to be decided. Each councilor will submit his or her priority order this month in preparation for the beginning of the budget creation.

Councilor Susan Falkoff said she does not like the ranking system because she believes all the budget areas are important.

The recommendations include continuing to provide a 5 percent increase in the school budget for the next three years, along with working with the School Committee and school administrators to develop a long-range financial plan for the schools. This would include looking for funding sources.

Along with the plan to improve the town’s streets and sidewalks, the Department of Public Works will received develop a plan to identify sources of stormwater and sewage outflows into the Charles.

The budget recommendations calls for using the town budget to pay the salaries of the four firefighters hired using the federal SAFER Grant. Also, the budget recommendations will move forward with the creation of ALS Ambulance Service to be provided by the Fire Department. They will also seek the COPS police hiring grant or other grant possibilities for public safety.

The budget calls for “enhancing the capabilities of the Department of Community Development and Planning” by adding more resources and/or re-appropriating existing resources, to provide additional inspectional services and enforcement. That will enable the department to handle the new construction in Watertown.

After splitting the cost of the Social Service Resource program for two years, the budget recommendations call for incorporating the program into the town budget.

The Council also seeks to come to an agreement for a non-municipal re-use of the former branch libraries, and and a municipal re-use of the former police station. Redesigning the Town’s website and increasing social medial presence to improve communications also made the list.

The town will also look to expand programs for youth, including programs such as the Cops for Kids Program, the town’s summer parks and grounds maintenance program and internships for Watertown High School students in town departments.

The trash and recycling contract will end in 2017, and the budget includes a study of the current system and exploring ways to cut costs, increase recycling and collect organic waste for composting.

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