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New police station swells city budget, puts tax increase on table

A 5-cent tax increase included in the City of Washington’s proposed 2019-20 budget largely depends on how the City Council chooses to fund construction of a new police station to replace the old station that was flooded during Hurricane Florence.

By the numbers, the proposed 2019-20 budget totals $84,178,790, a 5.2-percent increase above the current year’s budget. The document projects a $3.69 million fund balance appropriation to balance the budget, which basically amounts to a withdrawal from the city’s savings account.

Of that fund balance appropriation, roughly $2 million would to pay for a new police station, while the other portion will offset regular operational costs. The tax increase would help the city recoup those funds taken from the fund balance.

“That’s probably going to be the largest issue — whether we will have any tax increase or not,” said Jonathan Russell, Washington’s city manager. “Ideally, we won’t, just to not provide any additional debt burden to the citizens. I think there will be some other options that will be more favorable from a financial feasibility standpoint and a political feasibility standpoint.”

Among those funding options to help pay for the station, Russell said the city has engaged with the N.C. Department of Emergency Management and FEMA regarding demolition funding for the old police department, and has reached out to the Golden LEAF Foundation and other grant possibilities for new construction.

While the new police station will be the largest, and most costly, of the city’s projects budgeted in the coming year, others include downtown streetscape improvements, increased walkability throughout the city, beautification efforts and improvements to entryways to the city.

On April 29, the city will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 5 p.m. in council chambers at the Washington Municipal Building. The proposed budget is now available for public review at Brown Library, in the City Clerk’s office and online at www.washingtonnc.gov/proposed-budget.