Budget keeps tax rate, but some fees increase

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

By Staff
Stormwater, sewer, water charges upped
Contributing Editor
Washington’s property-tax rate will remain at its current level of 60 cents per $100 valuation.
That means the city taxes on a $50,000 house remain at $300 for the next fiscal year.
The City Council, during its meeting Monday, unanimously adopted a $56.8 million budget for fiscal year 2007-2008, which begins Sunday. Although the spending plan does not raise the property-tax rate, several fees will increase when the budget takes effect.
The new spending plan allows the city “to keep things on an even keel for next year,” Smith said.
Water rates will increase by 6 percent. Sewer rates will increase by 7 percent, in part to cover debt service for improvements to the wastewater-treatment plant. The fee for garbage collection and disposal will increase $2 a month, from $10 to $12. The increases will provide the revenue needed to make those enterprise funds more-self supporting.
Mayor Pro Tempore Darwin Woolard said the increase in fees reflects the costs of providing those services.
Stormwater utility fees also go up by 5 percent July 1. The monthly fees, depending on rate classifications, will increase as follows: SR1 — $2.32; SR2 — $3.48; SR3 — $4.63; SC1 — $11.58; SC2 — $23.15; SC3 — $46.31; SC4 — $57.89 and SC5 — 115.76. (The SR designations are for stormwater fees applied to residential structures; SC designations are for stormwater fees applied to commercial structures). Fees are based on a structure’s impervious surface.
The budget does not increase the city’s electric rates this calendar year.
The general-fund budget, which pays for day-to-day operations in the city, is set at $12,952,424. The current general fund is at $12.95 million. The biggest segment of the overall budget is the $35.9 million for the city’s electric department.
The budget also increases some fees for using the city’s aquatics and fitness center. It increases the free-swim fee at the aquatics center from $2 to $3 and increases the membership fee for the aquatics center by $5 a quarter.
The council decided to look again at the aquatics center’s rate schedule this fall to determine if changes are needed. Councilman Ed Gibson said he wants to increase fees more, saying it’s time the center’s fees, which are lower than its competitors’ fees, caught up with the competition. Even if the city decides to increase fees later, people who use the city’s pool and fitness center are still getting a “bargain,” Gibson said.
The budget also allocates $100,000 to Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, $130,000 to pave Pamlico Street, $5,100 to open the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center for four hours a day on weekdays during the summer and a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees.