WATERTOWN — Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson voted against the proposed $41.8 million city budget on Monday night after failing to convince his colleagues to add a librarian back into the budget.
The librarian on the teen desk was among nine city employees who were laid off during a difficult budget season as the result of the financial collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Suggesting to pay for it with the city’s fund balance, Councilman Henry-Wilkinson said the librarian is needed because it’s not known whether school will open back up in the fall because of the pandemic.
Do you agree with dissolving the position of librarian for the Flower Library's teen desk as part of the city's budget?
“I don’t think $60,000 is going to or not going to break the budget,” he said, adding it would help children of poor and at-risk families.
Councilwoman Lisa Ruggiero agreed, stressing that children already lost the city’s summer playground program.
However, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and council members Jesse Roshia and Sarah Compo said the decision about the librarian should wait until the city hears whether there’s money in state aid funding to pay for it.
The budget was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Henry-Wilkinson casting the only no vote.
Council members agreed to fund a full-time city parks maintenance position by using money that would have been used for temporary seasonal workers in the department.
Council members used $435,000 from the fund balance to stave off a 6.65 percent tax rate increase and save the two IT positions. The tax rate will increase 1.84 percent, below the state’s 1.99 percent tax cap percent increase.
The budget will carry a tax rate of $8.945 per $1,000 of assessed or about a 20-cent increase from this year’s budget.
Councilwoman Compo said constituents thanked her again on Monday for getting the property tax down during this tough budget year.