Budget maintains tax rate

Published 9:41 pm Monday, April 23, 2007

By Staff
Increases likely for water, sewer
Contributing Editor
The proposed 2007-2008 fiscal year budget for Washington calls for no increase in taxes, but it does call for increases in water, wastewater-treatment and garbage-pickup fees.
City Manager James C. Smith’s draft spending plan for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, was presented to City Council members and the mayor during the council’s meeting Monday. It calls for keeping the property-tax rate at 60 cents per $100 valuation.
Water rates will increase by 5 percent. Sewer rates will increase by 6 percent; 5 percent of that was anticipated to cover debt service for improvements to the wastewater-treatment plant. The fee for garbage collection and disposal will increase $2 a month.
The proposed spending plan also reflects no proposal to increase the city’s electric rates this calendar year.
The total proposed budget comes to $65.2 million, including a proposed general fund of $12.93 million. The current general fund is at $12.95 million.
The current budget reflects an increase of five cents on the city’s property tax rates and increased fees for many city services.
In October, the council learned about a projected $1.6 million shortfall in the city’s electric department for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The city increased electric rates then to help reduce the shortfall.
On Monday, Smith told the council and mayor that shortfall has been reduced to $400,000. It’s possible by the end of this fiscal year that shortfall may be eliminated.
Councilman Archie Jennings if the city could repeal the rate increases it imposed last fall if the shortfall is eliminated. Smith said the city may need to maintain its current electric rates to prevent a similar shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.
Smith also informed the council the city’s payments for property liability insurance have increased 86 percent. The increase is the result of losses suffered by insurers in fiscal year 2005-2006 because of damage caused by hurricanes and other major storms, according to Smith.
The city’s cost to provide health insurance to city employees and staff has decreased for the second year in a row, Smith said. That cost decreased by 10 percent in this fiscal year and should decline by 2.8 percent in upcoming fiscal year, saving the city money, he said.
The proposed spending plan includes a 3-percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees.
The council meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday to conduct a budget work session. It has final say on the budget and tax rate.
For additional coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.