City’s property-tax rate increases

Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Washington property owners will pay more in property taxes under the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget adopted by the City Council on Monday.

When the new fiscal year begins July 1, the city’s property-tax rate increases from 50 cents per $100 valuation to 52 cents. That means the annual property taxes on a house valued at $100,000 will go from $500 to $520.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the budget and set the tax rate. Council members Richard Brooks, William Pitt, Virginia Finnerty and Larry Beeman voted for the spending plan. Councilman Doug Mercer voted against it. Mercer listed several items in the budget that he could not support, including an increase in the transfer from the electric fund to the general fund, the tax increase and appropriations in the city’s electric department. Mercer also said the city had to take money from several sources, including the electric fund and fund balance, to balance the $15 million general fund.

“The general fund, in general, has expenditures of over $15 million, but we have revenue of only $14 million if you do not take the transfer from the electric fund and the fund balance that was appropriated, which means we’re spending a million dollars more than we’re taking in,” Mercer said. “This is the 10th year in a row that we’ve done that. Now, we cannot continue to live off the fund balance and transfers from the electric fund.”

Finnerty lobbied for adding $20,000 to the budget to fund the city’s façade-grant program. The council restored that funding. The proposed budget eliminated funding for the program.

City Manager Bobby Roberson plans to retool the program so it becomes more proactive and better distributes grants, so the same recipients do not receive grants regularly. He wants more property owners and business owners to participate in the program.

The $75 million overall budget calls for using the 2-cent increase in the city’s property-tax rate to set aside money to help pay for a new police station.

The budget implements a half-percent increase in water rates and a 2-percent increase in sewer rates for the upcoming fiscal year. The increases are needed to provide for the operation and maintenance of those services, according to Roberson. Under the budget, electric rates do not increase during the fiscal year.

The budget increases stormwater fees for commercial customers by 15 percent. The council looked at increasing the residential fee to $1 a month, but reached consensus to raise the monthly fee to 50 cents. That would result in a residential customer paying $6 more a year.

For additional information on the adopted budget, 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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