Council poised to adopt budget|WEU’s retail ratesslated to increase6.7 percent on July 1

Published 1:41 am Sunday, June 14, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council is scheduled to adopt the 2009-2010 fiscal-year budget and keep the existing property-tax rate at its current level when it meets Monday.
That means the property tax on a $100,000 house remains at $600. It also means that fees for water, sewer, trash collection and stormwater management will remain at current levels when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The proposed budget reflects reductions in some services, including shortened hours at facilities such as Brown Library and the Hildred T. Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Councilman Gil Davis said the budget reflects the state of the economy.
“Austere, that’s what I would call it,” Davis said. “That’s the word I would use to describe this budget. I know there’s a lot of things the taxpayers would like for us to do, but we just can’t do it right now.”
Should the economy improve, the city might reconsider providing taxpayers what they’ve asked for, Davis said.
Though the council has pounded out a budget, Davis said he isn’t completely satisfied with how the planning process went this spring.
“I think it was a little compressed, we didn’t get the (capital-improvement plan) early enough to do some of the work on it that we wanted to do. … I think we need to do a better job with the CIP and update it more frequently than in the past,” Davis said.
The council uses the CIP, which provides a schedule and costs for major equipment purchases and/or construction projects, to help it put together budgets each year. By looking at each year of the CIP, the council knows what capital projects are scheduled for that year and how much each one is estimated to cost.
Also on Monday, the council is scheduled to consider increasing all Washington Electric Utilities’ retail energy rates by 6.7 percent, effective for billing on July 1.
In January, the council delayed increasing retail rates until July 1, although WEU’s cost to buy power increased in February. Citing the poor economy, the council said it wanted to delay increasing electric rates as long as it was feasible.
In other business, the council is scheduled to consider the Recreation Advisory Committee and city staff’s recommendation to locate a proposed off-leash dog park at the corner of East 4th and Brown streets near Jack’s Creek. Concepts for the proposed dog park were presented to the public for its review and input on May 14 at the Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center.
Other items on the council’s agenda include considering a request to allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at Pickin’ on the Pamlico in August.
It will also get an update on the Washington Police Department’s Project Next Step and will consider authorizing the mayor to facilitate bringing a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to the original Washington in April.
The council meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 102 E. 2nd St.