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City manager plans to release proposed budget on April 22

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Residents should know on April 22 what to expect from City Manager Sharon A. Addison’s first proposed budget.

That’s when the city manager plans to release the plan to the public after taking a different approach during this year’s budget process.

On Monday night, she told the Watertown City Council that she intends to give them her proposed budget on April 19 and then release it to the public via the Internet the following Monday. She also informed council members that she will abide by the parameters that they agreed upon last week.

Before releasing more details, Ms. Addison said she wants to wait until the latest quarterly sales tax figures come out Monday so she will have “a more accurate proposal” for the spending plan, she said.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns gave the city manager high marks on the way she has handled the budget process. Ms. Addison got council members involved earlier in the process than what was done in the past.

“I just want to congratulate her on the wonderful job she’s done in her first year,” Ms. Burns said, adding that it’s a good idea that council members get to see it before the media so that they can give “educated answers” when asked about it.

On March 26, Ms. Addison, who was appointed city manager in July, asked for advice in preparing her proposed budget after starting with a $41.38 million draft budget with a 34 percent tax increase.

In a budget update Monday, council members learned water and sewer rates will remain the same as in the current budget. They also learned that the city manager will look for ways to reduce the draft budget by $800,000.

Ms. Addison told them that she has “scrubbed” purchase of some motor vehicles and equipment that were included in the draft. On Tuesday, she did not provide any details, saying that she and department heads are looking at which vehicle and equipment purchases can be delayed a year.

Until Monday night, Ms. Addison planned on not adding any positions. But she told council members during the work session she wants to increase the sewer department by two “junior” full-time equivalent positions.

She contended they are needed, citing some veteran staff are nearing retirement, a planned expansion at the facility and an increase in required federal compliances.

Mayor Graham said Tuesday he was looking forward to finding out more about her reasoning for the additional sewer department staff.

“She understands where we want to be and where we need to be,” Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said Tuesday. “And I think she’s aiming for that.”

Last week, council members instructed Ms. Addison to appropriate $1.6 million from fund balance, find about $800,000 in reductions and set a maximum increase to the property tax levy of 2 percent. As it stands, the city manager has proposed reducing the Fire Department by two firefighters through attrition.

Council members will learn the details about the fund balance, the reductions and sales tax revenues when she delivers her proposed budget, the mayor said.

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