By Kaitlin Mayhew -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- The finance committee discussed options Wednesday night for chipping away at the more than $500,000 deficit left in part by the recent upgrades to the waste water treatment plant.
One of those options included increases to the water and sewer user fees.
The majority of committee members were against raising the rates, though an increase is one of the most direct ways to lower the public utilities deficit.
"I'm just worried about those on fixed incomes," said Councilwoman Jackie Lambert. I'd just rather not raise our water and sewer at once. Maybe we could just raise one."
Mayor Jeremy McCleary said that the council has looked at a variety budget cuts and changes to avoid having to raise utility costs. Because of this, they did not raise the rates last year.
"We are trying to do all we can to lessen that burden," he said. "We would be looking at a lot worse situation if we hadn't made those changes."
Though committee members were not sure how high the utility rate increases may be, they did decide that an across the board percentage increase would not be advisable.
One option that committee members agreed to move forward with was a 15-cent raise in the cigarette tax.
Woodstock currently has a 10-cent cigarette tax.
Most surrounding localities -- including Strasburg and New Market -- are either at 25 cents or looking at making the change, according to Finance Director Mandy Belyea
"Obviously, there's nowhere else to cut -- so we have to come to some agreement on how we are going to balance this," Lambert said.
The 15-cent change would mean an extra $212,000 a year towards balancing the deficit.