The City Council adopted a $392 million budget for 2012-2013 that maintains city services at current levels, reduces the city payroll, cuts operating budgets and raises the property tax rate 1.6 cents, to 49.1 cents per $100 of value. The budget takes effect July 1.
The tax-rate increase will cover lost state revenue and maintain the public transit system. Under the new tax rate, the property-tax bill for a house valued at $125,000 would increase $20.
The budget as adopted cuts $6.2 million from the $398.2 million budget that City Manager Lee Garrity recommended. That proposal called for a tax rate of 51.7 cents, an increase of 4.2 cents.
The adopted budget does not include a 30-cent increase in bus fares and does not implement Sunday bus service on selected routes, both of which were proposed. The council will consider Sunday service separately in September.
To minimize the tax-rate increase, the council made a series of cuts in the proposed budget, including $2.67 million in personnel costs, $900,000 in support to economic-development and parking funds, $845,000 in operating costs, and $255,000 for replacing equipment.
The total budget of $392 million represents an increase of 0.35 percent over the budget for 2011-12. The budget for the General Fund, which accounts for city functions supported by taxes, is $174.7 million, an increase of 1.8 percent.
Overall the budget allocates $331.9 million for operations and debt service, and $60.1 million for capital improvements.
To reduce personnel costs, the City Council voted to give city employees a $250 pay increase instead of the 1.5 percent merit increase in the proposed budget. This saved $1.1 million. Other personnel cost-savings include:
- Eliminating selected vacant city jobs, saving $300,000.
- Laying off selected management and professional employees, saving $700,000.
- Eliminating a second police recruiting class during the fiscal year, saving $575,000.
The budget also:
- Maintains grants to community agencies at current levels.
- Allocates $1.9 million to address a backlog in sidewalk construction and street resurfacing.
- Has no new user fees and keeps all existing user fees at current levels, except for a 9.75-percent increase in water and sewer rates approved earlier this month by the Utility Commission.
The budget as passed will be posted on the city’s website http://CityofWS.org by July 1.