Watertown’s town budget will increase nearly $4 million in Fiscal Year 2017, and includes big increases for the schools, and additional police officer and making the town’s Social Services Resource Specialist a permanent position.
The budget proposed Tuesday night by Town Manager Michael Driscoll for the fiscal year staring July 1, 2016 will be $126.3 million, or $3.85 million more than the current fiscal year.
The School Committee requested $44.15 million – a 6.5 percent increase over Fiscal 2016 ($2.7 million) – and Driscoll said they will receive that much, though the funding sources will not all be from the town appropriation. This will allow the addition of 20.25 new positions to the school disitrict.
The town will contribute $43.57 million, and there will be town adjustments of $111,908 in Minuteman tuitions and charging two instruction aides to to the Pre-K revolving account. The schools will also use $85,788 in Special Education Circuit Breaker money to support the Fiscal 2017 budget
The town will also provide $375,000 for one-time curriculum initiatives – spending that will not be an on-going part of the school operating budget in future years, Driscoll said.
Police and Fire
The Public Safety budget – Police and Fire departments – is the second biggest budget. The police budget is $8.8 million or $427,458 more than the current fiscal year.
The Police Department will get one more police officer in Fiscal 2017, largely thanks to a $60,000 donation from the makers of the “Patriots Day” film (see more information here). That brings the total up to 67 uniformed officers.
“One of the Police Department’s new community policing initiatives in Fiscal 2017 will be the restoration of the Police Mountain Bicycle Program,” Driscoll said.
The Fire Department will have the same number of firefighters – 87 – but they town is now funding four positions that had been paid for by the Federal SAFER grant. Those new hires will be used to man the Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance in town, a service currently provided by a private company.
The budget is down $2.7 million to $9.4 million because last year the town funded a seven year contract settlement with the Firefighters union.
New Town Positions
The budget includes some new positions, including three that will be part of the Community Development and Planning Department to deal with the increased development in town.
An assistant building inspector will be added to help address existing shortage of resources, Driscoll said.
A transportation planner will be hired to work on transportation and parking issues in town, including the new transportation management association and shuttle.
A code enforcement officer will working enforcing non-criminal codes and the voids between the Community Development and Planning, Department of Public Works and the Police Department. One such issue is snow shoveling.
Two positions that had been partially or fully funded by outside sources will be brought into the town budget.
The Social Services Resources Specialist, who connects residents with social services has been half funded by foundations and private sources but will now be totally paid for by the town budget, Driscoll said.
The town also brought the energy manager on as a permanent position. The job was paid for by a grant and was created to oversee the town’s energy efficiency improvements. So far, the energy manager has brought in $300,000 in capital and created an annual savings of $90,000.