No changes to tax rate, city saves for new police station

Published 5:38 pm Friday, June 7, 2019

The Washington City Council will take two significant actions during its regular meeting on Monday: the adoption of the city’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and the appointment of 32 individuals to serve terms on city advisory boards.

This year, the city budget weighs in at $84,360,750, maintaining the current property tax rate of .53 cents per $100 valuation. Of those taxes, .01942 cents are set aside for the public safety capital reserve and .02 cents are earmarked for a new police station.

“The tax rate will remain unchanged,” said City Manager Jonathan Russell. “We’ve had to make some adjustments in a few areas. I think it’s a common theme both throughout the state and nationwide, trying to do more with less. But we were able to meet our goals as far as providing services while leaving tax rates unchanged.”

While the budget leaves the tax rate alone, it also includes a $3,063,844 fund balance appropriation, mostly to be used on the new police station project. But Russell noted the city is unlikely to spend the entirety of that appropriation.

“We are trying to source grant funding, and we’re piecing together the funding package that will be through insurance proceeds, FEMA, USDA, Golden LEAF Foundation — we’re really looking at all the funding agencies that are available that would qualify for the project,” Russell said. “We’re not anticipating utilizing that entire fund balance transfer.”

As far as fees for water, electric, sewer and solid waste, Russell said residential customers will not see any increases in their rates, while commercial customers will see a nominal increase in sewer and solid waste rates, essentially to keep up with inflation.

Overall, the budget provides for few new services. Among the expansions included are:

  • A cost of living increase for city employees. For those making $54,000 or more, there will be a 2.4% increase. For those making less than that amount, there will be a $1,300 increase in salary.
  • The city’s share of paying for dependent insurance for city employees will increase from 25% to 40% at a cost of $46,993.
  • An additional $10,000 for façade grants in the Washington Harbor District.
  • Moving an administrative assistant position from part time to full time.
  • Adding a new full time circulation position at Brown Library.
  • Adding a part-time summer recreation maintenance staff position.
  • Purchasing an aviation tug for the Washington-Warren Airport.
  • $2,500 to pay for miscellaneous expenses for the mayor, which includes covering the cost of attending events the city endorses “for the betterment of Washington.”
  • Funds for a potential public information officer position, the duties of which are yet to be determined.

Other items of note in the budget include funding for wayfinding signage throughout the city, downtown streetscape improvements and grant funding from the state to help rehabilitate the Fowle building at the corner of West Main and South Respess streets.

Also during Monday’s meeting, council will also consider a number of applications to serve on city advisory boards. Recommendations will be presented by council liaisons, each of whom are appointed to each board by the mayor. The following applicants are under consideration:

  • Planning Board (one position): John H. Wehrenberg.
  • Board of Adjustment (one position): Richard L. McDonald, James M. Skillen Sr., Scottie Johnson.
  • Brown Library Board of Trustees (two positions): Barbara A. Grimes, Joanna Reig.
  • Recreation Advisory Committee (four positions): Dallis Tucker, James “Jay” R. Holland, Brian Michael Reapp Jr., Benjamin P. Myers, Steven Cohen
  • Historic Preservation Commission (three positions): Cheri Vaughn, Desmond D. Wilson, Scarlett Boutchyard, Elizabeth Stallings, Gayle Lee Hudson, John Stephen Carbone, Scot A. Craigie.
  • Washington Tourism Development Authority (four positions): William “Bill” Clark, John W. Butler Jr., Scarlett Boutchyard, Clay Johnson, Maree Richards-Benson, Fred O. Watkins III, Ray Midgett, David Singleton, Keith Hudson, Caroline Bletner.
  • Human Relations Council (five positions): Florence Lodge, Ann-Marie Montague, William O’Pharrow. Nicholas Blackford, Lisa Respess Williams, Alma L. Friedman, Amanda N. Coats.
  • Washington-Warren Airport Advisory Board (two positions): Wayne Wright Woolard, Douglas Boyd, Benjamin P. Myers.
  • Waterfront Docks Advisory Committee (three positions): Fred O. Watkins III, David Norwood.
  • Animal Control Appeals Board (two positions): Valerie Kines, Christopher Whitehead.
  • Washington Electric Utilities Board (five positions): Walter A. Manning, Nicholas R. McKinley, Vann P. Knight.
  • Washington Housing Authority (two positions appointed by mayor): Gil Davis, Josephine Royster.

The Washington City Council will convene at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Washington Municipal Building.