City budget work beginning

Published 5:52 pm Saturday, January 4, 2014

Work on Washington’s 2014-2015 fiscal-year budget begins in earnest Monday when budget packets are distributed to the city’s management team.

The new mayor and new City Council have made it clear they do not want to increase the city’s property-tax rate or Washington Electric Utilities’ electric rates. Councilman Doug Mercer, as he’s done for the past several years, wants the city’s general fund (day-to-day operations) to be balanced, based on the revenues the city takes in. He does not want the general fund’s expenses to be more than its revenues.

Also look for the council to continue to decrease the amount of money the city transfers from the electric fund to the general fund. In recent years, the council has cut that annual transfer from about $1.1 million to $470,000, the transfer amount in the existing budget. The council’s goal is to eliminate that annual transfer.

Monday is when funding requests from outside agencies such as Purpose of God Annex and the Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort County will be distributed to the city’s budget preparers. Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson, in a recent interview, said he wants to pay close attention to such allocations, noting that he doesn’t believe the city can afford to add any new entities to the list of outside agencies that city is funding.

Some council members have said it’s time to start weaning some, if not all, outside agencies from city funds.

City staff and the council are scheduled to meet Jan. 20 at the Washington Civic Center for a budget and strategic planning retreat. That date is when the city’s capital-improvements plan is submitted to the city’s finance personnel for review and recommendations concerning paying for those improvements.

During the retreat, the council prioritizes projects, programs and services it wants included in the upcoming budget. The discussions provide guidance to city staffers as they begin drafting the proposed budget.

“Obviously, a budget is the mechanism through which an elected body gets done what they want to get done for their constituents. We’ve got to figure out exactly what that is,” City Manager Brian Alligood said. “You talk about some of our challenges, obviously the economy is still slowly, hopefully, turned a little bit and slowly getting there, but obviously that has an impact on what we do. Revenues are still down.”

Alligood addressed changes in state funds the city receives.

“Some of the changes that have occurred recently in the General Assembly with some of those things, we still don’t know the entire impact yet. It’s going to us take some time,” Alligood said. “When they start changing those formulas, it takes a little bit of time to figure out exactly what that’s going to do to you. They can tell you, ‘This is what we project,’ but until it happens you really don’t know.”

The council desire to not raise taxes or rates for services comes as no surprise to Alligood.

“I think that’s what we anticipate hearing in the planning session, and I think that’s a typical response from most elected boards. We’d like to maintain services, and we’d like to keep our rates where they are. That’s the challenge we face in being able to do that,” Alligood said.

Revenue estimates for the next fiscal year, prepared by the city’s finance department, are due Jan. 27. Departmental budgets are due in the finance department’s offices by Feb. 10. The department is scheduled to have the proposed budget compiled by March 3.

Alligood is expected to present his recommended budget and capital-improvements plan to the council and mayor March 31.







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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