Tax increase discussed as Watertown lawmakers hold first budget session

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 2:15 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown lawmakers are starting to dive into a spending plan that has a proposed tax increase and the reinstatement of jobs in several city departments.

City council members had their first budget session at city hall Friday afternoon.

“It’s to make sure that council has every opportunity to go through, ask questions of staff, put forward ideas and make cuts where we need to make cuts,” said Mayor Jeff Smith.

The proposed budget includes a nearly 2 percent tax rate increase.

City Manager Ken Mix has said a slow increase in taxes is needed to account for the end of the city’s hydro contract at the end of the decade.

Smith says he doesn’t want taxes to raise taxes if he can help it

“Just look in the last 4 months what’s happened to gas and food prices; everything is skyrocketing so the cost of living continually goes up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Council Member Sarah Compo says she would like to try and adopt a budget with no tax increase.

Council Member Lisa Ruggiero says instead of spending $50,000 on the Flynn pool, that money could be better served to lower taxes.

The city has seen better than expected sales tax revenue and it’s receiving more of its state aid so the proposed budget includes reinstating the 4 city police officer positions, a deputy fire chief and a librarian. All things that Smith says will be considered during these sessions.

“We have got to look at areas that we can save and consistently save, or if we are investing money like we are, is that it makes the job easier and we get ahead on doing projects,” he said.

Smith says Friday’s session focuses on parks and recreation as well water and sewer, while on Saturday, the discussion will be about the city’s fire and police departments, public works and the library.

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