Council votes 3-2 in favor of budget ordinance
Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Washington City Council voted (3-2) in favor of budget ordinances for the 2022-2023 budget at their meeting on Monday night (June 13).
Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Brooks, Councilman Mike Renn and William Pitt voted for, but Bobby Roberson and Lou Hodges voted against.
Councilmembers Roberson and Hodges made it clear they are not opposed to supporting Emergency Services (EMS); however, they are against raising taxes to pay for four additional personnel. A five cent tax increase is solely for the additional EMS personnel. Also, there is a five percent increase in cost of living adjustments for city employees’ salaries and a one cent decrease in a base utility rate for electric utility.
The 2022-2023 budget amounts to $112.9 million. This seems larger, but City Manager Jonathan Russell clarified that if $20 million in funding from the state and $7.5 million being used to pay for construction of a new police station were subtracted from the budget then the budget would be in the usual range between $80 million and $90 million.
Russell said city staff have been “really conservative with the numbers.” He commended the staff for “doing more with less.”
Councilman Roberson expressed dissent for the budget because he believes the city can create more revenue streams; therefore, the city wouldn’t have to increase taxes for citizens.
He proposed and speculated that if every person on electric systems was on a load management then the city could possibly save $1.2 million on an annual basis. He quoted the city’s utilities department in his estimate. Also, he proposed the city collect outstanding debts, and reduce legal fees.
Councilwoman Lou Hodges agreed with Roberson who noted an increased national inflation rate, increased prices in the housing market and price of food and gas.
Councilman Pitt stated the City of Washington needs the additional four EMS personnel given its aging population. He noted the difficulty of price increases for everyone, but said EMS is “extremely necessary.” “We’re not going to prevent and save money by not providing the services that our citizens expect and need.”