The City Council finalized Watertown’s budget priorities for the next fiscal year which include focuses on small business, implementing the Comprehensive Plan and Watertown Square Area Plan, the City’s shuttle bus program, and more.
Many of the same guidelines returned from the 2024 Budget Policy Guidelines, including street and sidewalk repair, a 3.5 percent increase in the education budget, rodent control, launching the 311 constituent services system, and reusing the former North Branch Library
Among the guidelines are the long-standing effort to seek economic development and this year it includes a new focus on “small business, retail corridors, and emerging industry clusters.”
The guidelines also include a priority to implement the updates recommended in the Comprehensive Plan update, as well as the ongoing redesign in the Watertown Square Area Plan. That plan includes redesigning the intersection, increasing housing density, strategies for small business, and better use of City owned land. This would be done, in part, by enhancing “the capabilities of the Department of Community Development and Planning by adding resources and/or redeploying existing resources to achieve the goals of the Plans.”
Another guideline is to have all municipal department budgets “prioritize and enhance the ability of the City to implement the strategies and action items in the Climate and Energy Plan.”
Councilor Tony Palomba said he wanted to go a step further and request additional staff for the Department of Community Development and Planning to help implement the Climate and Energy Plan, but he was told that the guideline incorporated that. He noted that two letters were written to the Council asking for more staff, and said that he did not think the guideline guaranteed additional staff to “carefully implement the climate and energy plan as quickly as possible.”
A guideline included in last year’s list was to work with the Watertown Transportation Management Association (TMA) to identify sustainable funds for the shuttle bus program in town, and to use data from the shuttle pilot to increase ridership in a permanent local program. This year, the guideline changed to say:
“To meet the goal of allowing people who live and work in Watertown to go car free, continue to work with the Watertown Transportation Management Association to identify sustainable sources of funding for a permanent local transit program in Watertown.”
New items in the Budget Policy Guidelines include:
- Provide additional support for cultural events and public art in the FY25 budget.
- Add resources in the FY25 budget to support the work of the newly formed Human Rights Commission.
The Council unanimously approved the guidelines. The Councilors have until Dec. 5 to rank the priorities, which will then be sent to City Manager George Proakis to use when making Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget.
See the complete list of guidelines below. Read the background material here (go to 23-11-1 BFO Meeting Report).
Watertown’s FY2025 Budget Policy Guidelines
The City Council is adopting these budget policy guidelines pursuant to Section 5-1 of the Watertown Home Rule Charter. Based on these guidelines, the City Manager will develop budgetary goals and the City budget for Fiscal Year 2025. Watertown’s Ongoing Budget Policy Guidelines Resolution 2012-72, Amending Watertown’s Ongoing Budget Policy Guidelines Resolution 2017-84 and Watertown’s Ongoing Capital Project Budget Guidelines Resolution 2013-76 are hereby incorporated by reference.
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 FY25 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, and a renewed focus on small business, retail corridors, and emerging industry clusters.
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.
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 FY25 budget. Education program enhancements and expenditures should be considered subsequently in light of the recommendations of the School Committee.
A. All departmental budgets should prioritize and enhance the ability of the City to implement the strategies and action items in the Climate and Energy Plan.
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 FY25 for the Education appropriation that will provide level-service funding for our schools.
C. Continue support for Building for the Future Initiative funding in collaboration with the School Building Committee, for the MSBA High School project, without debt exclusion funding.
D. With the completed update to the Comprehensive Plan which includes new goals and strategies for development in Watertown; and the ongoing Watertown Square Area Plan that will include Intersection Design, Development & Zoning changes including increase in housing density, Small Business strategies, and better use of City owned land; provide funding to address the strategies and action items in the plans, and continue to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Community Development and Planning by adding resources and/or redeploying existing resources to achieve the goals of the Plans.
E. 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. Identify and implement technology needed to support the Department.
F. Continue annual updates of the rolling five-year plan and funding schedule for the integrated improvements of the City’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. Monitor and assess resources for City-wide rodent control in the FY25 budget.
H. Monitor and assess resources for launch of the 311 system in the FY25 budget.
I. Fund the remaining recommendations of the HR Assessment Review in the FY25 budget.
J. Fund the recommendations of the Classification and Compensation Study in the FY25 budget.
K. Continue to enhance the capabilities of the Department of Public Works Forestry Division by adding resources and/or redeploying additional resources for improving and maintaining Watertown’s public shade trees and increasing the City’s overall tree canopy, by maintaining robust data collection for public shade trees in Watertown, and analyzing the data to continue tree plantings.
L. 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.
M. Consider funding for the recommendations of the Community Health & Human Services Assessment in the FY25 budget.
N. To meet the goal of allowing people who live and work in Watertown to go car free, continue to work with the Watertown Transportation Management Association to identify sustainable sources of funding for a permanent local transit program in Watertown.
O. Based on final City Council policy direction, develop a budgetary plan to meet the identified need for DPW staging space.
P. Consider re-use of the former north branch library after review of a FY24 structural study and findings.
Q. Provide additional support for cultural events and public art in the FY25 budget.
R. Add resources in the FY25 budget to support the work of the newly formed Human Rights Commission.