City budget expected to have no tax, utility hikes

First Posted: 4/22/2009

After two straight years of water and sewer rate increases, Mount Airy residents apparently will be spared another utility hike and no property tax rise when the next city budget is unveiled in early May.
I dont believe there will be an increase, Commissioner Dean Brown said Wednesday of the citys next spending plan that will go into effect on July 1 for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
The budget is basically complete, added Brown, who as a member of the city Finance Committee helps plan the package of revenues and expenditures that the Board of Commissioners officially will act on in June.
It looks really good, he added of the outlook for no increases in either the present property tax rate of 59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation or water-sewer charges.
Commissioner Jon Cawley, another member of the Finance Committee, said Wednesday that he also is anticipating no tax or utility hikes, and believes delaying major expenses is the key to achieving that. Im hoping that any capital expenditures will be put off as long as possible.
Cawley added that with the recession forcing local government units to rethink their spending patterns, he is working toward a scenario in which Mount Airy focuses on funding daily operating expenses such as personnel until the economy improves.
He also wants to reduce personnel costs as much as possible. This would include continuing a recently installed policy of delaying the replacement of city personnel who retire, or consolidating jobs so that not every position will be filled, Cawley said.
City Manager Don Brookshire declined to discuss budget specifics Wednesday, indicating that conditions could change between now and May 7, when the citys new spending plan is scheduled to be officially presented.
Specifically, Brookshire said he is concerned by possible actions of the financially strapped state government which might impact revenues the city is now counting on to balance its books in the next fiscal year. The state Legislatures in session they could do all kinds of funny things, the city manager said.
Mount Airy residents were hit with an average 45-percent rise in water and sewer rates for the 2007-08 fiscal year, followed by another 7-percent hike for this fiscal year which was approved last June.
The 2008-09 budget package contained no property-tax increase, but the higher utility rates it included prompted two commissioners to vote against the plan that was approved by a 3-2 margin. There also was criticism that the budget was rushed through the approval process without allowing sufficient time for possible cuts to be explored.
Earlier, it was anticipated that Mount Airy might have to raise its utility rates again this year as a means of helping the city repay a loan to cover costs of extending municipal sewer lines to the newly annexed Cross Creek community.

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