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Culpeper budget expected to increase

No matter what choices are made, the town of Culpeper’s fiscal 2015 operating budget—somewhere between $15 and $16 million—seems destined to rise by about 3 percent.

But with more revenue pouring in, thanks in large part to a 2012 boundary line adjustment, that increase seemed inevitable.

“We’re getting new businesses, building permits are up and [water/sewer] taps are up,” Councilman Billy Yowell reminded his counterparts during Thursday evening’s budget work session.

The town appears to be looking forward to a robust fiscal 2015 with a sizeable general fund increase projected.

With that in mind, the Town Council considered cutting another 5 or 10 percent from its BPOL tax rate, already lowered by 20 percent as part of the boundary line adjustment deal.

“This is the most unfair tax we have on our books,” said Vice Mayor Mike Olinger, the manager of an auto parts store.

Yowell, Jim Risner, Dave Lochridge and Tom Huggard agreed. The only question in anyone’s mind seemed to be in what increments the tax, which brings in about $1 million annually, should be phased out and what revenues would take its place.

“We’re going to have more than enough revenue from the boundary line adjustment to compensate,” Lochridge said, adding that last year meals tax revenue alone from the added district totaled about $850,000.

The council also seemed to prefer a 2 percent merit pay hike next year instead of 3 percent. In the employees’ favor, however, was a proposal to fully fund the second half of a career-ladder pay increase.

“I think we should just take the second half out of our reserves this year and go with the 2 percent raise next year,” said Mayor Chip Coleman.

The council also seemed to agree that the $62,500 gift appropriation to help renovate the Culpeper Senior Center should be paid in full by the end of the year.

The council decided two months ago not to hire a full-time town attorney, which will also save money next year.

A new position for Culpeper Renaissance, however, is expected to remain in the budget.

While everyone agreed that a real estate tax rate hike was out of the question during these good fiscal times, Risner suggested that a 2-cent increase be advertised “so as not to tie the council’s hands at this point.”

Huggard and Lochridge agreed, to which Councilman Bobby Ryan pointed out, “None of you are running for re-election this year.”

In the end, by a 5–4 vote, it was decided not to advertise a tax rate of any kind.

Town Manager Dewey Cashwell and Assistant Town Manager Chris Hively will crunch the new numbers and bring revisions back to the council, which will hold at least one more work session, in May.

The council will adopt its budget in June.

 

Donnie Johnston:

djohnston@freelancestar.com

 

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