Watertown lawmakers have been engrossed in budget sessions for the past couple of weeks, pouring over the $45 million budget line by line looking for potential savings. The goal is to get the tax increase below the state-mandated tax cap, which is about 2.4 percent.
Councilor Mark Walczyk says they are making some progress but he thinks more can be achieved with Watertown's $13 million fund balance.
"It’s my view that that is way too much money for our government just to be sitting on," Walczyk said. "It’s the people’s tax money after all. And having a healthy reserve is important. Our city comptroller says $8 million is still healthy so certainly holding $5 million more than you need to for no real particular purpose is too much for me and then to come and saying we need to raise taxes is certainly the wrong answer."
Councilor Cody Horbacz agrees.
"We have to keep a healthy fund balance for emergencies. I know we can't keep using fund balance money to close budget gaps. However, when we have surpluses, that's what that surplus money should be used for. It should be rolled over into the next year so that can keep tax increases low. It's returning that money back to the citizens," said Horbacz.
City Manager Sharon Addison's proposal calls for using around $2 million of the city's fund balance in this year's budget. She has warned against depleting the reserves too much, as has Mayor Joe Butler. But they may not have a choice as several councilors have pledged to get the budget below the tax cap.