Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2023 City Budget is projected to drop by more than $1 million from FY2022, but will add several positions, including for the Police, Fire Department, and the Watertown Library. The budget also includes new initiatives related to curb-side composting and rodent control.
Acting City Manager Tom Tracy presented the $174.79 million Watertown City budget for Fiscal Year 2023 to the Council Tuesday night. The budget would be a reduction of $1.79 million from FY2022.
The budget includes funding for the three elementary school projects, as well as the new Watertown High School project, Tracy said, which will be done within the normal operating budget and won’t need a temporary tax increase though a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
The FY2023 Budget includes several additional positions in the municipal government.
The Police Department will receive two positions — a sergeant and a civilian clerk — to help the department with the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) standards. These require officers to be accredited, and were created as part of the State Legislature’s criminal justice reforms in 2020.
The Fire Department will add an eighth captain, who will be in charge of lab safety inspections and oversight of life science companies and other labs in the City.
The Community Development and Planning Department will add a Conservation Agent who will work with the Conservation Commission and on conservation issues. There will be another staff member who will concentrate on climate and energy issues.
The Department of Public Buildings will add a project manager position to assist the Director of Public Buildings.
A children’s librarian has been added to the Watertown Free Public Library’s staff.
The Recreation Department will add a second recreation supervisor to help run the departments’ programs.
The education funding for FY2023 will be $55.6 million, an increase of $1,88 million (3.5 percent) over FY2022. Superintendent Dede Galdston presented the School Budget to the School Committee on April 11, which includes several new positions. See details of the Superintendent’s proposed education budget by clicking here.
A few new programs received funding in the FY2023 budget.
The Department of Public works will add a curbside organic waste collection PILOT program. The program will be an opt-in program that will be free for participating residents, Tracy said. Participants will receive a starter kit including a curbside toter, a countertop unit, and bags.
The Department of Public Works increased the funding aimed at pest control. Reports of rodent problems have been increasing over the past year, Tracy said.
“While documented throughout metro Boston, with the large amount of on-going Public Works infrastructure projects focused around utility and roadway work, and with the 2-mile Mount Auburn Street project about to commence, we have identified the need to start a city-wide pest control program in response to the growing construction presence,” Tracy said.
The Library received funds to run the new bookmobile in FY 2023. The bookmobile was donated to the Library, and it will be used to take materials and programs around the City, including to schools, the Senior Center, daycare providers, businesses, parks, and festivals.
A draft master plan/feasibility study has been created for the former Phillips School and Senior Center complex. Tracy said the draft plan will soon be presented to the public and the Council will consider how to proceed with a potential project at the site.
When the preliminary budget was presented to the Council in October it projected a deficit of $1.01 million. The revenues and expenditures are equal in the budget presented Tuesday.
A major part of the increase in revenues was the projected FY2023 State Aid figure of $14.24 million, which is $760,307 above the amount received in FY2022 and which was used as the State Aid figure in the preliminary budget.
The budget also includes $500,000 in Cannabis Excise Taxes paid to the City by the marijuana dispensaries in Watertown.
The City will be receiving approximately $10.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, according to an estimate by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Tracy said. The City will hold public forums and come up with a plan for how to use the funds in the spring and summer. Tracy told the Council he recommends that half the money be used for water and sewer infrastructure projects “In order to minimize future necessary rate increases as well as improving the City’s investment in the water and sewer infrastructure,” Tracy said.
Watertown will receive $60,000 in opioid settlement monies annually for the next 18 years. The funds are proposed to be used for the Health Department’s contracted services related to substance use disorder, Tracy said.
Tracy said the FY2023 budget continues the fiscal management goals of previous years.
“The goal of the administration and all of the City departments is to provide the highest level of services to the citizens of Watertown while utilizing the taxpayers’ dollars as efficiently as possible,” Tracy said. “The submitted budget is balanced and based on sound business practices.”
Tracy has been serving as acting City Manager since the retirement of Michael Driscoll in January. He added he “would be extremely remiss” if he didn’t acknowledge him.
“Mike worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of Watertown for 45 years, the last 29 years as the executive branch leader of our community,” Tracy said. “Watertown owes Mike a debt of gratitude which we will never be able to repay, for his professionalism, dedication, hard work and integrity. It has been my privilege and honor to call him a colleague, mentor and most importantly friend.”
See the Fiscal Year 2023 Watertown City budget book by clicking here.