The town faces a shortfall of $1.3 million in the preliminary Fiscal 2013 budget presented by Town Manager Michael Driscoll at Wednesday's Town Council meeting, but in April, he had forecast an even bleaker picture, with a $2.4 million deficit.
The town's revenues will grow by $1.6 million over Fiscal 2012 to , the current budget year, but Driscoll said the increase will not keep pace with the growing town expenses.
The growth brings the town's revenues to $101.8 million, but the expenditures are forecast to rise $2.95 million to $103.15 million, Driscoll said.
At this time last year, the shortfall was even larger, at $3.4 million, Driscoll said.
While making the budget, Driscoll said he looked to provide the best services and balance the needs of Watertown tax payers, the town and town employees — including school employees.
The budget includes a 2.5 percent increase to the town and school departments, but Driscoll also looked at a scenario where departments got no budget increase.
Still Up in the Air
Some areas of the budget remain uncertain, and could fluctuate significantly. Driscoll pointed to local aid, unsettled municipal and school contracts and health insurance as some areas that could change.
Local aid provided to the town by the state has dropped of the past few years, from $10.49 million in Fiscal 2010 to $9.8 million in Fiscal 2011. State aid is expected to drop again in Fiscal 2013. The Fiscal 2012 budget includes $9.58 million in state aid, while Driscoll expects $9.24 million in Fiscal 2013.
Health insurance and other town employee benefits are forecast to rise nearly $970,000 in Fiscal 2013, Driscoll said.
Capital projects must also be dealt with. Driscoll's budget includes $904,426 for Fiscal 2013, or $41,000 more than the previous budget.
Town Employee Raises?
All town and school union employees have received no increase for the past two years, Driscoll said.
"Over the last couple fiscal years we have made a concerted effort to preserve as many jobs as possible, while minimizing the number of layoffs," Driscoll said. "An increase in the base wage wasn't included in the last two submitted budgets."
He added the if town employees get another no raise, that means all employees, including school employees. Teachers are working without a contract for the second straight school year.