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Posted March 30, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

Departments list priorities for fiscal '12 budget plan

Infrastructure, personnel needs pitched to council

By J.R. Williams-jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Leaders of major departments pitched their priorities to the City Council on Tuesday night during a lengthy work session on the fiscal 2012 budget.

Council members were confronted with infrastructure and personnel needs in public utilities, information technology, fire and rescue and the police department, among other offices.

In the coming weeks, officials will work those issues into a budget that shows a $5.99 million deficit when all department requests are included.

City Manager Jim O'Connor has submitted his recommendation to balance the $70.6 million plan, which is slated to be presented at an April work session.

May's meeting will likely see a second reading for adoption.

O'Connor's recommendations include filling three positions now vacant: a senior IT network engineer, a community resource police officer and an emergency communications specialist.

Many other positions were requested to be funded, including five new firefighters (two are proposed to be filled) and other Police Department positions.

The budget includes no property tax increase, level dollars for the school system and a different funding strategy for outside agencies based on goals expressed by the City Council.

In addition, $800,000 in fund balance reserve funds is slated for capital improvement projects and a pay bonus for city employees is proposed.

Several big-ticket concerns were presented to council members Tuesday night, including the next round of proposed utility capital projects.

Public Services Director Perry Eisenach outlined a schedule and estimated costs for improvements to Amherst Street ($8.5 million), the city's north end ($6 million) and the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall ($5 million).

Each project, scheduled for completion in 2012 and 2013, would require an additional utility rate increase.

"Obviously these are some high-dollar projects, and it will have some impacts on rates," Eisenach said.

Eisenach recommended moving forward with each project and enacting 15 percent rate increases in 2012 and 2013 to pay for them, if approved. Many include millions of dollars in state grant money that could expire if no action is taken.

Council members requested to see information on other options for funding, including tapping utility reserves.

There was also interest in exploring the creation of a stormwater utility, which likely would take several years to implement.

Councilman Les Veach was absent from the meeting.

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