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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Council will advertise 70-cent tax rate
At their first budget work session tonight, four of seven council members decided to advertise a real estate tax rate of 70 cents per $100 of value, compared to the current rate of 68 cents. City Manager Bev Cameron had not recommended a change in the rate.
Even though most council members said they don’t believe a real estate tax rate will be necessary, they will not have any option to raise the tax if they don’t advertise a higher rate ahead of the April 20 public hearing.
Kerry Devine, George Solley, Mary Katherine Greenlaw and Hashmel Turner said the higher advertised rate was just a prudent thing to do to avoid locking the council into a particular situation so early in their budget process.
Tom Tomzak, Matt Kelly and Brad Ellis were against advertising a higher rate. They all said they thought the council could shift spending already in the budget to accomplish its goals.
Solley and Greenlaw both said they could live with Cameron’s budget as-is, but everyone had little tweaks they wanted to make. Here are some of the areas to watch as this process continues:
- Furloughs for city employees: The proposed budget calls for four furlough days for city employees, which amounts to a 1.5 percent pay cut. Most council members said something about wanting to decrease or remove the furloughs if possible (they’d need to find $140,000 in savings to do that). A few council members expressed a specific concern that the city was proposing furloughs, while some of the agencies the city funds were not. “I would hope that our agency partners look at that as a cost-saving measure, as well,” Devine said.
- Schools funding: Council members are trying to put together an April 12 work session with the School Board. I did not hear anybody say they were interested in increasing local funding to the schools (proposal is to keep them level with this year). Council members seem to want to learn more about what specific cuts will mean for the schools, and to discuss possibilities for non-classroom cost savings within the schools budget. Brad Ellis specifically said he believes the schools can reduce their spending without impacting the classroom. At the very least, council members seem to want to make this year’s sit-down with the School Board more of a real discussion and less of the congratulatory gathering that it has been in the past.
- Outside agencies: Not too much discussion here tonight, but one theme that seems to be emerging is the question of how much partner agencies have shared in the cutting that City Hall has made over the past three years. “We are in a recession,” Tomzak said. “We’re the ones that have to raise the taxes. Some of our outside partner agencies really don’t feel that pain we have to feel.”