Public hearing for budget scheduled Wednesday
City of Washington residents will have the opportunity to give comment on the proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year during a public hearing that will be held at 6 p.m. March 6 in the former Washington Public Library.
Administrator Brent Hinson said today that the public hearing is a required part of the city’s budgeting process. The notice for the hearing appeared in the Feb. 22 edition of The Washington Evening Journal. He said that the council has had several work sessions since January where there was opportunity for people to give input on the proposed $20 million budget with $16.2 million of spending. He said after the hearing the council will consider a budget resolution, which would lock in the existing budget. It is required to be filed with the state by March 15.
“This is kind of the last chance before the budget is actually adopted,” Hinson said. “We have received some comment during the workshops.”
He said the new budget would take effect at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. Hinson said that many times people comment on the budget after the items in it have been implemented.
The tax rate will remain $15.82. Hinson said this rate is steady. He hopes that the rate has peaked and the city will be able to maintain at that rate or slowly lower it. He predicts it will be a few years before the rate is lowered.
He said that property taxpayers in town may see a slight increase due to increases in the residential rollback. He said once all the taxing body’s askings are calculated, he believes most taxpayers will see a decline in taxes, assuming their taxable valuation has remained the same.
The major part of the budget is $5 million in capital projects and $1.5 million in enterprise capital projects, which is made up of the upgrades to the city’s water system. Another $9 million is in operational spending, which includes debt service on the new sanitary sewer plant. He said there are about the same amount of projects as there were in the current budget.
Projects this year include the airport runway project, replacing the ground reservoir and construction in the southwest industrial park.
“This is more of a maintaining budget,” Hinson said. “We are trying to grow fund balances overall as a budget.”
He said that while increases to the cost of water and sewer aren’t part of the funding from taxpayers, he said that the projected numbers for usage have been used in creating the budget. He said that at a later time, the council will have to approve an ordinance increasing the rates.
Hinson said the council can change the budget after the public hearing. He said the budget can only decrease. If something is struck from the budget, he said that with the publication requirements, the council can call a recess in which notice can be provided and the budget changed. He said that he had never seen a change made at the final public hearing.
“It has been a long process and this is the end of it,” Hinson said. “Certainly the council is happy to take public comments.”