Pay-as-you-go gains momentum

Published 8:30 pm Sunday, April 24, 2016

An increase of 2 cents on Washington’s current property tax rate of 50 cents per $100 valuation is included in the recommended budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, but what other items are included in that spending plan?

The proposed budget totals $75 million, including a $15 million general-fund budget (day-to-day operations). In recent years, the city has followed a pay-as-you-go approach when it comes to major expenditures to avoid paying interest on borrowed money.

Of the proposed $3 million budget for the Washington Police Department, a $152,000 allocation is earmarked for the department’s vehicle-replacement fund, used to buy new patrol cars. That fund receives a similar allocation each fiscal year so the city can pay cash for replacement vehicles instead of borrowing money to do so.

The proposed $1 million budget for the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department includes $435,000 for the department’s vehicle-replacement funds, which also receive allocations each fiscal year to build up funds to replace fire engines, ambulances and other vehicles so the city does not have to borrow money to purchase such vehicles.

The proposed budget includes about $125,000 for paving and resurfacing of city-maintained streets and materials for constructing and maintaining city-maintained streets. Roadways such as U.S. Highway 264, U.S. Highway 17 and N.C. Highway 32 (a section of Third Street) are maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Streets such as Main Street, Water Street, Second Street and many residential streets in the city are maintained by the city.

Annually, the city receives Powell Bill funds for street paving, maintenance and widening, or for planning, construction and maintenance of bikeways, greenways or sidewalks. The city anticipates receiving $285,000 in such funds in the next fiscal year.

The amount a local government receives in Powell Bill money varies each year. The amount varies because of the formula used to calculate the allocation. As a city or town’s population and miles of paved/unpaved roads changes, those parameters affect that city or town’s allocation.

The proposed budget includes the following allocations (10-percent less than current allocations except for Zion Shelter) for outside agencies: Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library, $7,800; Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club, $12,960; Zion Shelter, $7,650; Wright Flight, $2,835; The Blind Center, $1,012; Eagle’s Wings, $810; Purpose of God, $16,200 and Cornerstone Worship Center’s community program, $8,100.

The recommended spending plan allocates $50,220 to the Washington Harbor District Alliance, $16,200 to the North Carolina Estuarium, $12,960 to Arts of the Pamlico and $6,750 to the Highway 17 Association. Those allocations come in the economic-development budget, which totals $328,000.

The city faces somewhat of a challenge in replacing revenues the city has lost or seen a decline in during recent years, including the loss of revenue from business licenses. That revenue source was abolished by the North Carolina General Assembly.

“Thus, our revenues must be increased or our service levels need to be reduced,” according to City Manager Bobby Roberson.

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