Council continues budget talk

Published 12:21 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reducing the transfer of revenue from the city’s electric fund to its general fund remains a top priority for Washington’s City Council, if the city can afford to continue to do that, according to several council members.

The council and Mayor Mac Hodges discussed budget-related items during its meeting Monday. Last week, they, along with city staff, met to formally begin the budget-preparation process for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Councilman Doug Mercer proposes to reduce that transfer to $250,000 in the 2014-2015 budget that city staff and the council are developing now.

In recent budget years, the council continued to decrease the amount of money the city transfers from the electric fund to the general fund. During those 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.

Mercer, as he does regularly at the beginning of a budget-developing process, came up with a list of budget-related items for the council to consider. Among them are several suggestions to make the city more fiscally sound, he said. Mercer asked his council colleagues to provide input on his recommendations.

Mercer said he would like to “minimize” transfers from the city’s fund balance (rainy-day fund) to all of the city’s cost centers. Mercer also wants to make sure the city’s fees and rates are adequate so they provide enough revenue to “cover our continuation budget.” If those rates are not where they need to be, he said, the city must adjust those rates to increase revenue or cut expenditures.

“We cannot continue to live off the fund balance,” Mercer said. “Eventually, it’s going to go away. It’s just like your personal savings account. You can take out so much every month, but, eventually, it goes away.”

Alligood agreed.

“The concern is that if you use one-time money, which is essentially what your fund balance is, that’s one-time money for recurring expenditures, that gets you in trouble, gets you in trouble fast,” Alligood said.

For additional coverage of the council’s meeting, 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.

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