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 passes 6-1 on first vote
Council members voted 6-1 tonight to approve their budget for next year. No real estate tax hike, and it’s 0.55 percent smaller than this year’s budget.
Vice Mayor Kerry Devine cast the only opposing vote. She wanted level funding for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library (see below).
In presenting the budget at tonight’s meeting, City Manager Beverly Cameron gave a very frank analysis of what the council faces in the years ahead. He said the city will have to find a way to provide cost-of-living pay increases for city and schools employees. He also said the council and residents will need to think hard about what level of services they find acceptable. In the choice between “adequate” and “excellent,” Cameron said he thinks Fredericksburg should strive for excellent services, but acknowledged that that will take higher taxes to finance.
At their work session, before tonight’s meeting, council members made a few changes to the budget. They are:
- Reducing the city’s contribution to the Rappahannock Regional Jail by $83,000. This is the city’s “share” of the $350,000 the jail board voted to spend on retention bonuses.
- Contributing an additional $25,500 to Head Start.
- Cutting the city’s $10,000 contribution to the Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Department, which has only two active members.
- Cutting funding for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance down from $11,280 to $5,000. Council members didn’t have any sense that this economic development group actually contributed anything to the city, but they didn’t want to cut them altogether, because the Economic Development Authority has a practice of matching city funding to this group, and a few said the city shouldn’t pull out of a regional group completely. “I think this year it’s $5,000 and then there’s a message there to them and it’s that we’ve got to have some results that are measurable,” Mayor Tom Tomzak said.
- Adding $2,788 in funding to the George Washington Regional Commission, which helps the city access state and federal grants, and allocating $1,500 each to the Arts Commission and Clean & Green Commission.
- Adding $11,630 in funding to the Senior Visitors Program, which was proposed to be cut completely from the budget.
- Council members were told by staff that the only remaining furlough day in the budget could be cut and absorbed into the budget without making any additional spending cuts.
Council members still haven’t decided how much money to give the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. City management had proposed cutting the library by 5 percent–like all other “partner agencies.” That cut amounts to $55,190. Vice Mayor Kerry Devine proposed giving the library level funding, and said that she had been told by library staff that if the city did not level fund the library, it would lose its entire $500,000 contribution from the state. Council members weren’t sure whether that was true or not. If it is the case, they’re likely to level fund the library to prevent the loss of further funds. But if not, most of them seemed to think the library should have to take the same cut every other agency in the budget is taking.