City Council Sets its Budget Policy Guidelines for Next Year’s Budget

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The Council’s priorities for next year’s budget have been approved, including supporting the school building projects, improving streets and sidewalks, and a study of Watertown’s Personnel Department.

The Budget Priority Guidelines for the Fiscal Year 2023 were approved unanimously at the Nov. 23 Council meeting.

The Council’s Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee reviewed the proposed guidelines submitted by Councilors and voted on which to add to the list of guidelines. Other items were considered were not approved. See them in the Committee report by clicking here.

The guidelines are used by the City Manager when creating Watertown’s budget. Councilor Vincent Piccirilli thanked City Manager Michael Driscoll for including “almost every one” of the Council’s Budget Priority Guidelines in the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget.

He also thanked Councilor Angeline Kounelis, who will retire after this term, for serving on the Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee since it began in 2006, and noted she brought a sharp eye for numbers and a willingness to ask hard questions.

Piccirilli said the Fiscal Year 2023 budget will be a unique one, with Driscoll retiring before the budget is submitted in April, and a new manager not likely starting before the budget is approved by the Council in June.

Most of the budget priorities carried over from the previous year or years. A couple of new items were added for Fiscal Year 2023. One calls for hiring a management consultant to review how the Personnel Department operates and make recommendations for improvements, including addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A second calls for developing a budgetary plan to pay for acquisition of a staging space for Department of Public Works projects.

Watertown’s FY2023 Budget Policy Guidelines

I. COST-SAVINGS/REVENUES

(Note: The items in this section will be ranked in order of priority by the City Council after adoption)

The Town Council believes that identification of cost savings and/or new revenues should be a precondition to additional expenditures. To this end, in developing the FY22 budget, the Town Manager should:

A. Continue to proceed with the guidelines of the Strategic Framework for Economic Development, with the long-term goal to promote a diversified and growing tax base.

B. Continue pursuing mitigation monies and/or other measures for larger scale projects.

C. Consider filing additional applications to all applicable federal and Commonwealth programs and grants, including, but not limited to, the Commonwealth’s Community Compact program, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, the Green Communities program, the Housing Choice program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant.

D. Actively seek Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreements with each non-profit organization owning or purchasing property in Watertown.

II. PROGRAM ENHANCEMENTS/EXPENDITURES

(Note: The items in this section will be ranked in order of priority by the City Council after adoption)

To the extent that resources allow, in light of the financial policies stated above, and adhering to the principle of first identifying cost-savings and/or new revenue, the following program enhancements and, if necessary, new expenditures should receive priority in the FY22 budget. Education program enhancements and expenditures should be considered subsequently in light of the recommendations of the School Committee.

A. Continue support for Building for the Future Initiative funding in collaboration with the School Building Committee, for the Three Elementary Schools project, and for the MSBA High School project, without debt exclusion funding.

B. Continue to work collaboratively with the Watertown Public Schools to develop a comprehensive multi-year educational budget that assures sustainable funding for our schools
and the successful education of our children, and seek to accommodate a FY23 Education appropriation that will provide level-service funding for our schools.

C. Improve the operational efficiency, flexibility, and capacity of the Public Works Department to
meet the Town’s growing needs to manage contractors, respond to work order requests, oversee development projects, plan and implement infrastructure improvements, improve communications to residents about road construction, comply with the MassDEP 2030 Solid Waste Management Plan, and maintain complete streets infrastructure. Consider what technology platforms are needed to support the Department.

D. With the creation of the Acquisition of Land/Open Space Stabilization Fund, continue working
on plans with the Town Council to meet the identified and ongoing need for acquisition of land
for open space and recreational use; including proposals submitted to the Community
Preservation Committee.

E. Continue to work with the Watertown Transportation Management Association to identify
sustainable sources of funding, including tax revenue if needed, for the shuttle bus program in
Watertown.

F. Update the five year plan and funding schedule for the integrated improvements of the Town’s
streets and sidewalks, water-sewer-stormwater infrastructure, and underground utilities. The plan should show status of ongoing projects, identify future projects including those with no funding source, identify sources of stormwater and sewage outflow to the Charles River, and
coordination with water-sewer-stormwater projects and underground utility projects.

G. Continue to develop an evolving comprehensive IT master plan to ensure Watertown’s
commitment to government technology leadership remains strong, including but not limited to
implementing the remaining recommendations of the Town-wide Information Technology
Assessment.

H. Continue to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Public Works Forestry Department by adding resources and/or redeploying additional resources for improving Watertown’s public
shade trees and increasing the Town’s overall tree canopy by: (1) Developing a robust data
collection process for public shade trees in Watertown, and (2) Analyzing the data to determine
an action plan and to seek collaboration and partnership opportunities with community groups
such as Trees for Watertown.

I. Continue to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Community Development and
Planning by adding resources and/or redeploying existing resources.

J. Based on final Town Council policy direction, develop a budgetary plan to meet the identified
need for DPW staging space.

K. Finalize re-use of the former north branch library, and the former police station.

L. Hire a management consultant to review the structural operations of the Personnel Department and to make recommendations for improvements, including issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

One thought on “City Council Sets its Budget Policy Guidelines for Next Year’s Budget

  1. It seems like the town could save money by not putting sidewalks on bothsides of the street. This what they did on Grandview ave and it is a school zone. What has happened on Grandview ave is the pedestrians are forced to walk in the street because one sidewalk is not enough. The pedestrians consist of young elementary school children going to the Cunniff school and elderly people walking to ridgelawn cemetery. It has become a huge safety issue for all involved.

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