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Council approves budget and tax rate with 4-1 vote

Washington’s budget and property-tax rate for fiscal year 2018-2019, which begins July 1, have been adopted.

The City Council, during a brief meeting Monday, voted 4-1 to approve the $78 million budget and set the property-tax rate at 53 cent per $100 valuation. Council members Richard Brooks, Virginia Finnerty, William Pitt and Roland Wyman voted for the budget. Councilman Doug Brooks voted against it.

“I commend this council and I commend this staff for what I think is the best budget that’s been put together in the last 10 years that I’ve been sitting on this council. I say that very honestly, but at the same time I’m going to tell you I am going to vote against this budget simply because I have requested several times now in the last 18 months, or the last 24 months, a reduction in the electric rates,” Mercer said. “We are in a position to reduce the rates to our electric customers. We should do it. This budget does not do it. So, I cannot vote for it.”

In budget work sessions leading up to the adoption of the 2018-2019 budget, Mercer asked several times for the council to consider reduce the energy-cost component of electric customers’ bills by five percent. He based his request on the city not seeing forecast increases in the wholesale price it pays for power take place. Mercer said because of a surplus in the electric fund, the city should return some of that money to electric customers in the form of reduced rates.

The upcoming budget earmarks revenue generated by almost two cents of the tax rate for the public-safety capital reserve and revenue generated by two cents of the tax rate for the police station capital project fund. Those designations have been in previous budgets.

The police station capital project fund will have $1.56 million in it during the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget does not increase electric, water, sewer and other utility rates. It does impose new fees and increases some existing fees, such as fees Washington charges youths to use city facilities when playing most youth-league sports will increase. The fee for city residents increases from $15 to $20 per sport. The council increased the fee for non-city residents from $15 to $30 per sport.

With the property-tax rate at 53 cents per $100 valuation, the owner of a $100,000 house in the city would pay annual city property taxes of $530.

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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