Council’s Budget Priorities for FY 2024 Include Watertown Square Study, Rodent Control & 311 System

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Watertown City Hall

The City Council gave City Manager George Proakis its priorities for the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which includes funds for a study of the future of Watertown Square, rodent control, and launching a 311 system.

Each year, the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee meets in the fall to discuss the priorities for the next fiscal year’s budget. The results were presented on Nov. 22, and adopted by the full Council.

Other items added include staffing to make sure the changes to the Comprehensive Plan are implemented, focusing on snow and ice removal as a possible residential requirement is considered, and implementation of recommendations coming out of plans and studies, including the Personnel Department assessment, the salary study, the Energy and Climate Plan, and the Health and Human Services Study.

The list is given to the City Manager as a guide for the Fiscal 2024 budget (which runs from July 1 2023 to June 30, 2024). The budget will be presented by the City Manager in April 2023 and adopted by the Council in June 2023. Not all the items must be included in the Manager’s budget, but the guidelines represent the Council’s priorities, and the Council hires and evaluates the manager.

Most communities do not do budgeting this way, said Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli, the chair of the Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee.

“It doesn’t happen with a mayor. This is something unique that Watertown does with a manager (form of government),” Piccirilli said. “It allows us to do great things and have input from the residents, from what Councilors hear from the constituents.”

New Items

The Council added several new items to the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Policy Guidelines.

Money and resources are being sought by the Council for rodent control.

Another items adds funding for a study for Watertown Square that would incorporate the goals of the changes to the Comprehensive Plan, small business strategies, and better use parking lots and of City-owned land, including the former Police Station.

The Council requested funding and resources to launch a City-wide 311 system, where residents can request service and get answers to questions with a one-stop phone number and/or online request.

Departments will now include steps they will take to meet the action items from Watertown’s Climate and Energy Plan as part of their budgets.

Also, the City will carry out the recommendations of the Health & Human Services Study.

Changes from FY23 to FY24

The Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee changed several items, or reworded them for Fiscal Year 2024.

With changes to Watertown’s Comprehensive Plan coming, an item seeks to make sure the Department of Community Development and Planning has the resources to carry out the changes by adding or redeploying staff.

Some of the changes include seeking linkage fees from new large-scale developments. The fees go to pay for affordable housing.

The policies now require departments to seek out grant opportunities from public and private sources. Before the wording was to “consider” applying for grants, and specified certain state and federal government programs.

Watertown will continue to pursue PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements with non-profits, which do not pay property tax. The Council added the wording that departments should also seek “other in-kind services.”

In the Watertown Public Schools item, the Council specifies a 3.5 percent increase to the education budget.

For the Department of Public works, the language “Review improvements for snow and ice removal.” This was added as the Council considers adopting a residential snow removal ordinance.

After hiring a new City Manager, the Council’s personnel item focuses on funding the recommendations for Personnel Department Assessment Review and the Salary Study.

Watertown’s FY2024 Budget Policy Guidelines


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

The City Council believes that identification of cost savings and/or new revenues should be a precondition to additional expenditures. To this end, in developing the FY24 budget, the City 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, linkage fees, and/or other measures from larger scale projects.

C. Require all Departments to actively pursue filing applications for all relevant state, federal, and private foundation grant programs.

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


(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 FY24 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 on the comprehensive multi-year educational budget that assures sustainable funding for our schools and the successful education of our children, and seek to accommodate a 3.5% annual increase for FY24 for the Education appropriation that will provide level- service funding.

C. Improve the operational efficiency, flexibility, and capacity of the Public Works Department to meet the City’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. Review improvements for snow and ice removal. Consider what technology platforms are needed to support the Department.

D. 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.

E. Continue working to identify additional acquisition of land for open space and recreation, using the Acquisition of Land/Open Space Stabilization Fund, and including proposals submitted to the Community Preservation Committee.

F. Continue to work with the Watertown Transportation Management Association to identify sustainable sources of funding for the shuttle bus program in Watertown. Use data from the pilot program to explore strategies to increase ridership in a permanent program.

G. Consider funding for the recommendations of the Personnel Department Assessment Review and the Salary Study in the FY24 budget.

H. Carry out the remaining recommendations of the City-wide Information Technology Assessment.

I. With the ongoing update to the Comprehensive Plan, which will include new goals and strategies for development in Watertown, continue to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Community Development and Planning by adding resources and/or redeploying existing resources.

J. 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 City’s overall tree canopy by: (1) Developing a robust data collection process for public shade trees in Watertown, (2) Analyzing the data to determine an action plan and (3) to seek collaboration and partnership opportunities with community groups such as Trees for Watertown.

K. Finalize re-use of the former north branch library.

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

M. Provide funding for a study of Watertown Square that will incorporate goals of the updated Comprehensive Plan, and include Intersection Design, Development & Zoning changes, Small Business strategies, and better use of City owned land, parking lots, and former police station.

N. Beginning with FY24, all departments should prepare their budgets to address the strategies and action items in the Climate and Energy Plan adopted August 9, 2022.

O. Consider funding for the recommendations of the Health & Human Services Study in the FY24 budget.

P. Provide increased funding and resources for City-wide rodent control in the FY24 budget.

Q. Provide funding and resources for launch of the 311 system in the FY24 budget.

4 thoughts on “Council’s Budget Priorities for FY 2024 Include Watertown Square Study, Rodent Control & 311 System

  1. It is disappointing that the city continues to study enacting an ordinance mandating homeowner snow clearance. Once again, pedestrians will struggle through another winter of uncleared sidewalks, ankle-deep slush lakes and snow mountains at corner crosswalks, an impassible Bridge Street bridge crossing, and life-threatening forced walks in the streets. It is way past time for the City to bite the bullet and mandate resident snow removal. Pedestrian safety demands it.

  2. Nice time to inform homeowners that their taxes will go up, while commercial taxes will go down, despite the massive commercial buildings that have gone up in the past five years. Despite promises made by our representatives in Washington, the Inflation Reduction Act has not turned out that well for most of us, so why not add one more nail to the expensive coffin?

    • Taxes always go up. Every year. It’s inflation. Never changes.

      And the ability of the City to split between residential and commercial properties is proscribed by state law.

      And the City Council has ZERO to do with legislation in Washington. ZERO.

      Facts continue to matter.

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