Budget input sought

Published 9:06 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Washington taxpayers have an opportunity to weigh in on the city’s proposed 2012-2013 fiscal-year budget at a public hearing Tuesday.

The City Council will conduct the required public hearing at 6 p.m. The city is required to have its upcoming budget in place by June 30. The 2012-2013 budget takes effect July 1.

However, if the 2012-2013 budget is not in place by July 1, the city faces putting an interim budget in place. An interim budget maintains the current property-tax rate, but does not set it. According to state law, the tax rate must be set no later than Aug. 1. By adopting an interim budget, the city is able to pay salaries to all current employees, any current debts and the “usual and ordinary operating expenses” of the county.

The proposed budget, which does not raise the city’s property-tax rate, is at $62.5 million. The current budget is at $65.7 million.

The proposed general fund — which pays for the day-to-day operations of city government — for the upcoming fiscal year is less than the current general fund. The proposed general fund is $14,502,346, which is $1,220,239 less than the current general fund of $15,722,585.

The proposed $38,593,923 budget for the electric fund is less than the current electric-fund budget of $39,546,095, a difference of $952,172.

The proposed budget also reflects the council’s effort to reduce the amount of the transfer from the electric fund to the general fund. City Manager Josh Kay’s proposed budget recommends transferring $846,121 from the electric fund to the general fund. The current budget transferred $973,150 from the electric fund to the general fund. Until about three years ago, that annual transfer was slightly more than $1 million.

Councilman Edward Moultrie Jr. is hoping for a good turnout at the hearing.

“For this process, I think the community will be involved — telling us what they like, what they don’t like,” Moultrie said. “It’s the city budget, not our (the council’s) budget. The city (residents) should be there to give us their input.”

Moultrie said he’s pleased with the overall budget.

“I wish we could have done more with the utility rates,” he said.

As the council continues it budget deliberations, Moultrie plans to keep tabs on some things, including employee benefits.

“I would like to look at the area more to see if there is anything more we can do for our employees … raises,” Moultrie said. “I also want to look at reducing our debt … and also a reduction in electric rates.”

The Washington City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St. The council’s entire agenda may be obtained by visiting the city’s website at www.washington-nc.com, then clicking on the “Government” heading, then clicking on the “City Council” heading on the menu to the right, then clicking on “Meeting Agendas” on the menu to the right, then clicking on the date for the appropriate agenda.

Proposed budget highlights

  • Property-tax rate remains at 50 cents per $100 valuation, meaning the annual tax on a $100,000 house would be $500.
  • Reduces the transfer of money from the electric fund to the general fund.
  • Allocates $429,966 toward debt service (loans and bonds).
  • Projects taking in $3.9 million in property-tax revenue for 2012.
  • Projects taking in $240,000 in occupancy-tax revenue, with most of that going to the Washington Tourism Development Authority.
  • No use of fund balance to help balance the budget.

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.

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