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Fredericksburg City Beat

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 pgould@freelancestar.com. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

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Get out of your post-three-day-weekend stupor…

…because it’s time (once again) for the City Council to sit down in a City Hall conference room and determine what your tax rate will be next year, and what they’ll do with all your money. It’s been more than a month since neighboring Stafford and Spotsylvania counties approved their budgets.

If you’re entering an office pool on what the tax rate will be (And if you are, I feel sorry for you. You may have a gambling problem.), put your money on the manager’s original recommendation of 58 cents. That would mean paying $150 more a year for someone who owns a house worth $300,000.

But even with the tax increase, the manager had to cut some spending to balance the proposed budget. For example, the Dixon Park Pool this year will close Aug. 22–more than a week before its normal Labor Day closing–because of a lack of funding. After growing at 10 percent a year for quite a while, the city budget proposed for next year would actually shrink by 1.5 percent, compared to this year’s budget.

In the months the council members have been working on this, the major area of the manager’s proposal that they, as a group, have focused on changing is employee salaries. Specifically, council members would like to give city employees a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for the entire fiscal year, at a cost of about $500,000. (The original proposal included no raises.) That money was identified through a number of budget shifts that occurred after the manager made his proposal, but expect a little more discussion of that tonight.

Where there is dissension is on the tax rate. Matt Kelly and Marvin Dixon have indicated they would vote against a 5-cent tax increase. They have both said they think there are other places the city can cut–even though some of them might be painful or unpopular–and that the city needs to be cautious about raising its tax rate this year, since next year it could very likely find itself needing to raise taxes again.

Other council members have said they don’t want to get hung up on the tax rate. George Solley has pointed out repeatedly during the process that Fredericksburg’s tax rate is lower than those of its neighbors, and is one of the lowest among Virginia cities. He has cautioned that the city shouldn’t focus so much on lowering the tax rate that it does damage to city services and halts progress on initiatives the council has been working on to improve general quality of life for its residents.

More on this after tonight’s meeting. If all this budget talk is too heavy for you this morning, go check out Dan Telvock’s turtle pictures from the Canal Path.

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/citybeat/2008/05/27/get-out-of-your-postthreedayweekend-stupor/