This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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Budget vote? Nope.
Council members spent an hour and a half this evening talking about whether to postpone $200,000 in capital funding for the Cal Ripken fields project (they probably won’t), and postponing the new courts complex for a year (they’ll talk more about that next week). They will not vote on next year’s $77.3 million budget tonight. Next chance for them to take a shot at it is June 10.
It’s not quite clear what they’re going to do between now and then.
Aside from these two questions affecting the capital budget, council members are divided on how they feel about the operating budget, which includes a 5-cent real estate tax rate.
At about 7 p.m., City Manager Phillip Rodenberg asked straightup, "Are you all comfortable with first-reading this budget tonight?" Aside from the NOs he got from Matt Kelly and Marvin Dixon, everybody else just sat still.
Dixon and Kelly are against the tax increase. Dixon said tonight that he thinks there are lots of places left to cut the budget before the city asks for more money from homeowners. A few that he has mentioned over the course of the budget process are the new positions the city added in recent years when the budget was growing and some of the contributions to non-city groups. He mentioned a capital project to repair the windows at the Fredericksburg Area Museum. The original estimate on the project was $400,000, but that has since dropped to $300,000, and Dixon doesn’t feel he got much of an explanation for that $100,000 drop. He wonders if there are other parts of the spending plan where savings might be found. He said after the meeting that he also wonders how much the city saved when the Parks and Recreation department drastically cut the number of vehicles it sends home with employees every night. He wonders whether other similar policy changes might bring on more savings.
A penny on the tax rate brings in $400,000.
Kelly harped repeatedly on what has been his theme during this year’s budget process (If you want more on it, check out what he’s written about it on his blog.). His message: The city needs to hold things to an absolute minimum–including spending for things like the Ripken fields and the courts–until new revenue sources–ones that don’t come from homeowners–are available.
George Solley again said that Fredericksburg’s real estate tax rate is the lowest of any Virginia city, and that he doesn’t want the city to scrimp so much that it loses ground on long-term projects or jeopardizes the level of service it provides to taxpayers.
He then asked: "Is there any chance that if we don’t vote tonight, we will reach consensus?"
Well, I guess we’ll see, now, won’t we? (But I wouldn’t bet on it.)