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Proposed Watertown budget would raise taxes by 1.6 percent

Payne Horning
Watertown City Manager has submitted his first proposed budget, which includes a modest 1.6 percent tax increase.

Watertown officials are preparing to vote on a budget that stays within the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap and includes no increase in sewer or water rates.

Watertown Mayor Joe Butler says the 2019 city budget is one of the easiest he's dealt with. The proposed $44 million plan is actually smaller than last year's budget and requires only a 1.6 percent property tax increase. He attributes that to a number of factors, including savings in the city-funded health insurance.

"When you take $1 million off the health insurance side of things and then a sales tax increase of $300,000 or $400,00 - that make’s a big difference where in years past we’ve been on the other side of that," Butler said.

City Manager Rick Flynn says retirements also helped lower costs. Not filling those and other vacant positions are moves toward a larger strategic plan Finn is developing for Watertown to address short and long-term issues facing the city, like the need to build a second $3 million courtroom in city hall and the expiration of the hydroelectricity contract with National Grid.

"It’s going to help us over these next 9-10 years right-size the organization to decrease positions, while still providing the same level of service, and also looking at ways of increasing our revenues," Finn said.

The budget includes funding for a new, modern city website as well.

The council will vote on May 29.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.