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Watertown City Council adopts $52 million budget

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The Watertown City Council quietly adopted a $52 million 2013-14 budget on Monday night.

With little comment, council members unanimously adopted the budget that carries a 2 percent tax levy increase and a 1.2 percent tax rate increase.

No one spoke at the public hearing before the spending plan was adopted.

The budget increases the amount to be raised by taxes to about $7.5 million. The tax rate will be $7.29 — or less than a penny increase — per $1,000 of assessed value.

Council members had to approve a budget by June 1.

Before voting for the budget, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham thanked council members and City Manager Sharon A. Addison because, he said, “things went well.”

In what was a new way of doing things, Ms. Addison, who was hired last July, asked for some advice on what council members should expect from her proposed budget. The budget process also began a little earlier than previous years. As a result, the whole process was a quiet affair.

In past years, the city manager has put together the proposed budget — with little or no input from the council — and then released it in mid-April.

Council members also held just one budget session this year. On May 7, they made only a couple of changes to the proposed budget.

They did away with a $38,000 SUV for the city fire department that would have replaced a 2001 Chevy Tahoe.

They also agreed to spend $650,000 to begin a three-year process to replace about 7,000 water meters in commercial buildings and homes in the city. The new radio-operated meters would lead to eliminating two of four water department positions.

While the budget was adopted Monday night, council members still “had some lingering issues” to deal with next month, the mayor said.

In June, the council plans to look how it will spend $50,000 for tourism publicity next year when Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1,000 Islands Tourism Council, makes a presentation on his agency’s programs. The funding comes from money raised from Jefferson County’s 3 percent bed tax.

Council members also will talk about a $12,500 funding request from the Jefferson County Historical Society that night. Interim Executive Director Stephen P. Lyman lobbied for the funding Monday night, but council members want to make a decision on the entire $50,000 all at once, instead of piecemeal.

Mr. Graham told council members they will have to amend the budget to take care of those appropriations.

In all, the city will spend an additional $187,000 in tourism-related appropriations. Comptroller James E. Mills said the Tourism Fund goes to pay off debt service for “tourism destination” projects that have been completed at Thompson Park, the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds and other city parks over the years.

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