City of Watertown takes hit to the wallet

WWNY City of Watertown takes hit to the wallet

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown has taken a hit in the wallet. Annual state funding has come in lighter than anticipated.

Watertown's 2019-2020 budget has more than $4.6 million from the state through the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM, program.

But, City Comptroller Jim Mills says they're getting less than expected for the upcoming fiscal year.

"We were shorted $924,000 from what we normally would have received from this payment," he said.

That's a shortfall of 20 percent - one Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith says the city didn't see coming.

"When we just finished the 2021 budget we didn't anticipate coming out of the gate $900,000," he said.

And Smith says the city is looking for ways to fill the unexpected shortage.

"Well, use fund balance or just more hiring freezes through the year. Or, even cutting back where we can through the year," he said.

Mills says the city is also coming up short in projected sales tax revenue due to COVID-19 - $470,000 short.

But Mills says they had time to adjust their expectations for the coming budget.

"We lowered sales tax considerably. I just hope it was a conservative enough number," he said.

According to Mills, the city projected more than $300,000 of revenue from its hydroelectric plant in June for the 2019-2020 budget.

But, because the Black River has been so dry, Mills says Watertown could fall well short of that figure.

"The Black River is dry, the turbines at the hyrdo plant are shut down. There's not enough flow," he said.

Mills says it's not known if the turbines have run at all in June.

But even if the city made no revenue from the plant this month, they'll still exceed their projections.

"We will probably see a budget surplus of about $100,000, $150,000," said Mills.

Officials from the state say the shortage in AIM funds is only a delay in payment while they handle their own revenue shortfall caused by the pandemic.

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