The Fiscal Year 2018 Watertown budget presented by Town Manager Michael Driscoll is nearly 4 percent higher than Fiscal 2017 and includes a 5 percent increase for the Watertown Public Schools and new positions for a handful of municipal departments, including the Police Department and Library.
Tuesday night Driscoll presented the budget to the Town Council for the 25th time, see the presentation here. The town budget totals $132.6 million, which is $5 million more than the previous year.
Local real estate and personal property taxes total $94.8 million and State Aide accounts for $12.1 million. Local receipts – inspection fees, motor vehicle excise taxes and hotel excise taxes – provide $11.9 million for the budget.
Driscoll said the budget continued “the town’s very strong commitment to education.” It includes a 5 percent increase ($2.17 million) from the current education budget.
Interim Superintendent John Brackett presented the school budget earlier this month, which adds several positions, but cuts a couple of classroom teachers while still maintaining class sizes within the district’s guidelines.
The budget also includes $1 million for planning and design support to help the schools plan for the long-term school facilities renovations and upgrades, including sequencing and finding swing space during construction, Driscoll said.
The next highest funded department is Public Safety – Police and Fire departments and dispatch – which will be $19.26 million. The Police budget ($9 million) is up $102,616, and includes an additional police officer, bringing to the total to 68 uniformed and 50 on patrol.
The Fire Department’s budget ($10.1 million) is up $503,774, which includes money to cover the new three-year contract signed earlier this year.
The Library will have two new positions added to its budget, which will be $2.9 million. One will be a full-time Coordinator of the HATCH maker space. Driscoll noted that HATCH will need to find a new home now that the space donated by the Arsenal Project will soon disappear with the start of the mall renovation. The maker space may move to the old Police Station, but the town has not yet finished discussions on how to use that property, but there will be an interim space.
“Town and Library officials are working with the folks at the Residence in Watertown Square (at Summer and Spring streets) to renovate space in their building for a temporary location,” Driscoll said. “It is an ideal location given its proximity to the library and public transportation.”
The Library’s budget also includes support for Project Literacy, which provides tutoring for immigrants seeking to learn English.
The budget for the Health and Human Services Department ($1.3 million), which includes the Health Department, Council on Aging and Veterans Services, will include a new position – Community Wellness Program Manager as part of the Health Department.
“The Community Wellness Program Manager will be responsible for the coordination, promotion and implementation of community wellness education and programs that address community health priorities and leading healthy aging community efforts,” Driscoll said.
Programs that would support healthy living and healthy aging initiatives in the community include: healthy eating and cooking programs, walking, stress reduction, wellness ambassador initiatives, substance use disorder task force initiatives, health education events and community health assessment projects.
The Recreation Department will also get a new position in the Fiscal 2018 budget, which is $337,340 for the department. The new position, Recreation Supervisor, will be a second-shift employee to assist Recreation offer more programs to middle and high school students. The person will also work with the Senior Center and Health Department to bolster the town’s community wellness programs.
The Public Works Department added the position of a Town Engineer for the Water/Sewer Department.
Departments will present their budgets to the Town Council during a series of Budget Hearings beginning on May 16.