Proposed budget doesn’t raise tax rate

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Contributing Editor

The proposed overall 2010-2011 fiscal-year budget for Washington calls for no increase in the property-tax rate or increase in utilities — electricity, water, sewer, solid-waste disposal and stormwater — rates.
By not increasing the property-tax rate, that means the city taxes on a home with a tax value of $100,000 remains at $600 a year.
City Manager James C. Smith’s proposed $62.1 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, was unveiled to the public Tuesday. Smith, in an interview during a recess of the City Council’s meeting Monday, said it was “very difficult” for him and the city’s department heads to cobble the proposed budget.
“We anticipated certain revenue losses. What we didn’t anticipate was the increase in certain costs,” Smith said.
Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson is worried that shortfalls in the current enterprise funds, which he said could be about $1 million, will affect how the council finalizes the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“I think our revenue projections are down,” Roberson said in an interview Tuesday, adding he believes that budgeted revenues for most of the enterprise funds will not be met in the final three months of the current fiscal year.
The decline of revenues and the increase in insurance-related costs presents a challenge for the council to overcome as it works to finalize the upcoming budget, he said.
Smith’s budget message bears that out.
“As expected when we prepared the FY 2009-2010 budget, revenue declines continue into the next fiscal period. However, the much more serious impact on the next budget occurs because of the magnitude of cost increases, which was not anticipated in the prior year,” Smith wrote in his budget message to the mayor and council.
Among the increased costs for the city are insurance-related costs.
“Although there have been no cost of living increases for City employees since July of 2008, costs for health insurance have increased 53% and the employer share of retirement benefits increased 32%. Cost for property, casualty and liability insurance increased in all funds as did the expected price of petroleum products,” Smith wrote in his budget message.
The proposed budget for the city’s general fund, which pays for day-to-day city operations, is $14.2 million of the overall $62.1 million spending plan. When the council approved the current fiscal year budget last June, it OK’d a spending plan of $63.5 million.
Mayor Archie Jennings said work done by city staff to prepare the proposed budget should result in the council conducting a smoother, quicker budgetary process in the coming weeks.
The proposed budget may be viewed by visiting the city’s Web site — — or at the city clerk’s office.
For additional coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions.