Council mulls finances, fund transfers

Published 12:31 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

From stopping the practice of borrowing from the city’s fund balance to help balance the general fund to addressing the logos used by the city, Washington’s City Council established priorities it wants to pursue.

Some of those priorities are on the immediate radar (six months to a year), others are on the short-term radar (two to three years) and the remaining priorities are on the long-term radar (five to 10 years).

The council cobbled its priorities list during its meeting Monday. Those priorities were placed in three categories: improving the city’s economy, improving the city’s finances and improving the community.

“One of the things that concerns me, and this is the fourth or fifth year in a row that … we’ve dipped into the general fund and we are showing a negative balance. I don’t think we can continue to do that,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson. “So, I don’t know what the answer is, but collectively we need to come up and get something squared away on the general fund. We can no longer continue to go into fund balance.”

Councilman Doug Mercer brought up the issue of letting the county take over the 911 services now provided by the city.

“Obviously, mayor, we have talked now for six years and we have initiated and started the first step of the transfer of 911 to the county,” Mercer said. “I think that is an immediate goal that can be accomplished this year in our budget negotiations and discussions with the county. We need to make the decision if we’re going to proceed with that or not. … That would, basically, fall under ‘improve our finances’ because, in essence, the numbers we have heard in the past say that would save us anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000, and that could have a substantial impact on other activities.”

Councilman Edward Moultrie Jr. broached the issue of the city transferring revenue from one fund to another.

“I think one of my concerns is we need to stop dipping into the electric fund,” said Moultrie, who supports the city’s effort to reduce the amount of revenue it transfers from its electric fund to its general fund.

Many Washington Electric Utilities customers who don’t live in the city object to transferring money from the electric fund to the general fund. They contend that at least part of the money they pay on their electric bills is used to subsidize city operations, services and programs.

Council member William Pitt wants the city to improve its program to educate its utilities consumers on the value of conservation, including its impact on helping lower power, water and sewer bills.

“For instance, our energy fair, we drew 150 people on a wet Tuesday evening. So, the public’s really hungry. They want the information. We just have to keep giving them the information – give it to them in large, copious amounts all the time,” Pitt said.

For more information about the council’s session on setting priorities, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike