City Council retreat scheduled for Saturday

Published 5:52 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In a rare occurrence, Washington’s City Council is scheduled to meet during a weekend.

The meeting, a retreat requested by Mayor Pro Tempore Virginia Finnerty and agreed to by other council members and the mayor, is slated to kick off at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Washington-Warren Airport. Finnerty asked for the retreat before the council begins formal work on the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Finnerty said she sought the retreat “for planning purposes before we do any work on the budget.”

The council has another meeting earlier this week. At 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, a public information meeting regarding off-street parking on East 10th Street from Telfair to Nicholson streets. A 10th Street resident has asked the city to consider banning parking on the south side of East 10th Street between Nicholson and Telfair streets.

David Long, who is based in Greensboro, will serve as facilitator for the retreat, according to City Manager Bobby Roberson. Recently, Long facilitated a two-day retreat for Mount Airy officials. He has been a professional planner since 1974, including 30 years with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Roberson will present his State of the City report early during the retreat. The council and mayor are expected to discuss what each considers the most important issues facing the city in the next three to five years. The council and mayor will then work on developing a strategic plan to address those challenges and an action plan for high-priority strategies.

The retreat allows the mayor, council members and city staff to discuss short-term and long-term city projects and programs and how they could affect upcoming budgets. The retreat allows city staff to make recommendations regarding city operations, with the elected officials developing new policies or modifying existing policies based on input from the city manager, finance director and department heads.

Roberson could take what happens at the retreat and use it to make last-minute adjustments to his recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Roberson is scheduled to present his recommended budget to the council during its meeting Monday.

Roberson, in a recent interview, outlined some budget challenges the city faces. Over the past several years, the City Council, for the most part, continued to reduce the amount money transferred annually from the electric fund to the general fund. That trend ended with the current fiscal year and may not resume with the upcoming fiscal year.

“I’m going to use the same number that we did (for the current fiscal) year. I believe it was $625,000. So, basically, that’s the number I’m going to use again. They (council members) can take a look at it and say ‘yes’ o ‘no’ or they can increase it. We’re allowed by the (N.C.) General Statutes to go up to $1.2 million, it may be a little bit higher than that. … We’ve been working on that (reduction). At one time, I believe, we were down to $425,000.”

Roberson said the main factor behind the city having to increase its transfer from the electric fund to the general fund for the current fiscal year and possibly in the upcoming fiscal year is the failure of the N.C. General Assembly to keep its promise to provide an alternate revenue source after it took away the city’s authority to generate revenue by issuing business privilege licenses. That decision by the Legislature cost the city at least $100,000 in annual revenue. The city took in about $123,000 in such revenue during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to city officials.











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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