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Watertown city departments, including police and fire, could face 10% budget reductions

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WATERTOWN — City Manager Sharon A. Addison has instructed her staff to make 10 percent across-the-board budget cuts in the city police, fire, public works and parks departments, and for the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library.

Ms. Addison confirmed on Tuesday that she told department heads to submit the cuts in their proposed budgets. The other department heads were told to find 2 percent budget cuts.

The reductions, Ms. Addison said, will be needed to balance the 2014-15 budget. Even with the cuts, the city could still face a budget gap, she aid.

The budget reductions would mainly affect such non-personnel items as supplies, proposed projects and equipment, she said. Two weeks ago, department heads were instructed to take a hard look at whether vacant positions should be filled.

Ms. Addison declined to release more details, saying that she and her staff “are still crunching the numbers.”

Even after this “tough” budget year, Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said she fears the city will be compelled to spend more than $1 million to add a second city courtroom on the first floor of City Hall. The state Office of Court Administration has not backed off from a directive stating that another courtroom is needed with the promotion of a second full-time judge, she said.

That’s why it’s a good idea to budget conservatively, Ms. Addison said.

With a possible budget gap of $1.2 million at the end of the fiscal year, city officials have voiced concerns about the downward trend of sales tax revenues and how they would affect next year’s budget.

As a result, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said the city should not rely on digging deeper into the fund balance. He understands why Ms. Addison is looking at making significant budget reductions.

“To me, it’s something you do when things are going this way,” Mr. Graham said.

Both he and Councilwoman Macaluso surmised that the Thompson Park pool would end up being closed because it needs expensive repairs. They also expect that the Parks and Recreation Department will reduce the number of summer playgrounds because some have become underutilized.

Ms. Addison will release her proposed budget at the end of April.

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