Virtually every public entity has felt the crunch of the novel coronavirus pandemic on their financial resources.
Early in the crisis, many businesses had to close or severely restrict their operations. This was done to encourage social distancing and prevent the spread of infection.
While necessary to control the pandemic, this had a huge effect on the economy. Numerous companies shut their doors for good. People lost their jobs or had their hours cut.
This substantially increased the need for government help while reducing tax revenue. This put most municipal agencies in a serious bind.
Like a number of other public bodies, Watertown needed to respond to the crisis. The city’s management team accepted pay cuts totaling 2%; this saved the city $56,000. Other employees also took pay cuts, and members of the City Council also had their annual stipend reduced by $2,000.
But the budget for this fiscal year fared better in its first six months than expected. Half of the pay cuts made throughout the city were restored by the council, which passed a resolution Monday.
“Council members approved a resolution on Monday night to reinstate half of the pay cuts. As a result, the 32-person management and non-union employees will be going back to the pay levels they had during the 2019-20 fiscal year,” according to a story published Tuesday by the Watertown Daily Times. “With the $1,000 pay cuts, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith will be paid about $16,713 this fiscal year, while council members will receive about $12,314. Their pay levels will go back to annual rates of $17,713 and $13,314, respectively. City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said the city can reinstate half of the pay cuts because sales tax revenue is above projections and total revenue is about $700,000 more than budgeted. The additional cost to the city will be a total of $37,000 for the last six months of the current fiscal year, which will include $5,000 for the cost of the City Council pay restoration.”
This is very good news for the city and its employees. The fact that sales tax was higher than officials had anticipated last year it would be bodes well for the local economy.
We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. But to start the new year off with this positive development offers a glimmer of hope.