Next year’s proposed Watertown Town Budget includes funding for a few new positions, including an environmental planner, a forestry supervisor, positions at the Senior Center, and an additional police officer. A new department, shared by the Town and Schools, will be formed, and money has been set aside to start the reconstruction of four Watertown Schools.
Town Manager Michael Driscoll presented the budget, his 26th in Watertown, to the Town Council on Tuesday night. The Fiscal Year 2019 budget will be $139.55 million, a $6.997 million increase over the current Fiscal year, or 5.28 percent. It includes a 5 percent increase in the education budget, 2.5 percent more for Municipal Departments, and adds more than $1 million to the budget for Public Safety — Police and Fire.
More than 75 percent of the Town’s revenues come from real and personal property taxes. The town will collect $105.9 million, a $5.65 million increase from the current fiscal year. The town will have a cut in Local Aid of $488,637, but that is due to a decrease of $913,208 in state reimbursement funds. The town received the money as reimbursement for the 1995 Debt Exclusion Override to pay for school renovations, but Watertown paid off the debt in the current Fiscal Year.
Police & Fire
The budget proposal calls for hiring an additional police officer, which would give the Watertown Police 69 uniformed officer (including 51 patrol officers), along with nine dispatchers and four civilian employees.
The Watertown Fire Department will maintain its staffing of 87 firefighters and two civilian positions. The budget also includes money to purchase equipment for the Fire Department’s Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances, as well as funds for the purchase of gear extractor/washers and dryers to keep equipment clean and remove harmful chemicals and substances.
Trees & Environment
The Town will get two new positions to cover the work done by former Tree Warden and Conservation Agent Chris Hayward, who took another job several months ago. Some additional duties will be added, too.
The Department of Public Works will get a Forestry Supervisor/Tree Warden, who will oversee the care and control of all public shade trees, shrubs and growths in Watertown. The person will have $70,000 in funds for the Street Tree Planting Program.
A senior environmental planner will be hired by the Department of Community Development and Planning. This person will provide technical assistance to the Conservation Commission for environmental programs, and to the Historical Commission for preservation programs. The environmental planner will also assist the department with short-term and long-range planning.
Resources for Seniors
Services for seniors will be increased in the proposed budget. The Council on Aging, which oversees the Senior Center, will get a part-time program services assistant. Also, the hours of the case worker will be increased from part time to a full-time position.
The Senior Shuttle, which takes people to grocery stores and other places, will be funded for an additional day of service, Driscoll said.
School Building Project
Building for the Future, the building project that will renovate or rebuild three elementary schools and Watertown High School, will receive significant funding from the Town. In addition, the District will seek reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for nearly half the cost of the high school.
In October, Driscoll said the work on the three elementary school — estimated to cost between $80 million and $120 million — could be covered by borrowing funds that would be paid back in the Town budget, and would not require residents to pay more taxes through a Proposition 2 ½ override. Recently the School Committee heard updated estimates that increased the cost estimate by $50 million to $60 million. Driscoll did not speak about the increased cost, but reaffirmed the commitment to fund up to $120 million.
This year, the town will spend $1.7 million on Building for the Future. The $1.2 million the Town received from the sale of the former East Branch Library to the St. James Armenian Church will go toward the school building project. The building project will get another $500,000 from Overly Surplus (money left over in the Overlay account, which sets aside funds for tax abatements or exemptions, but was not spent).
During the current fiscal year, efforts began to merge the facilities and maintenance departments of the Town and the Watertown Schools. Lori Kabel was hired as Director of Public Buildings in September 2017, but the departments remain separate.
Officials from the Town and Schools have been working together to figure out how to merge the departments, Driscoll said, and the FY2019 budget has funding to create the Department of Public Buildings.
The new department will have have a budget of $297,000 and the staff will include a facilities assistant (paid half by the Town and half from the School Budget), an energy manger/maintenance supervisor, a supervisor of custodians, a preventive maintenance technician and a carpenter.
The Town Council will hear details of each department’s budget from the department heads during a series of budget hearings. Town Council President Mark Sideris announced the dates of the hearings:
- Tuesday, May 15 at 6 p.m.
- Thursday, May 17 at 6 p.m.
- Saturday, May 19 at 9 a.m.
- Tuesday, May 22 (after the Town Council Meeting, approximately 8 p.m.)
- Tuesday, May 29 at 6 p.m.
A public hearing will be held on by the Town Council on June 5, 2018, to vote on the budget.
The hearings are open to the public and will be held in the Town Council Chamber in Town Hall, 149 Main St., Watertown.
See all the documents from the Town of Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget by clicking here: http://watertown-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/1405