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Politics and Government

Amid sales tax declines, Watertown considers layoffs and pool closing

City of Watertown Planning and Community Development

New York's statewide shutdown is not just costing businesses a lot of money, it's also depleting the sales tax revenues that local governments need to make ends meet. Syracuse officials earlier this month passed a budget that took $9 million from the city's reserves to plug a budget hole and now Watertown leaders are struggling to make ends meet as well. 

In his first budget cycle since taking office earlier this year, Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith is facing about a $4 million loss in revenue to the city.

"About 45 percent of our revenues are from sales tax and that’s just been decimated with the forced shutdown," Smith said.

That's forcing Smith to not only delay some of the agenda items he campaigned on, like pursuing an amphitheater in Thompson Park, but also forcing him to cut into the city's existing services. The Watertown City Council is considering a budget that would layoff 10 employees and close one of Watertown's three public pools.

"Beforehand, everybody was being asked to do more with less and now with the forced shutdown of the economy, it’s been even worse," He said. 

Despite the difficulties, the proposed budget would keep property taxes under the state's 2 percent cap and it would use only $450,000 from the city's fund balance. And the council through other reductions, like pay cuts for councilors and city department managers, was able to allot $50,000 to help the struggling Thompson Park Zoo.

The council will vote on the budget June 1.