By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Town Manager Steve Burke, along with town staff, presented the town's proposed 2012-2013 budget to council at their Monday night work session.
The document is still a work in progress, as the town is still waiting on a final state budget.
In Burke's opening letter to council, he said that the town's "general fund revenue sources have stabilized and even increased slightly."
The budget is based on a personal property tax rate of $.64 and a real estate tax rate of $.11, which includes $.02 per $100 devoted to the Leach Run parkway, local connector road and facility study projects.
Burke said that the staff is proposing that electric, solid waste, water and sewer enterprise funds remain as they were last year.
He added that budget preparation presented challenges because of increases in both medical insurance and retirement plan expenses.
Overall, a 1 percent increase to $37,449,138 was proposed for the town's budget from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013, mainly due to increased expenses for insurance, retirement, fuel and postage.
Other expenditure increases include $55,000 for a Community Development position, $77,000 to reorganize the Police Department staff, $313,000 for anticipated electricity purchases, and $92,000 for a one-time bonus of $500 to each full-time employee, and $250 to each part-time employee.
The town attorney is also requesting a salary raise for the assistant town attorney and senior legal administrative assistant "to reflect their increased workload."
Councilman N. Shae Parker noticed a 1 percent increase in salaries for council.
"I would like to propose removing that increase from council," he said. "Instead let's take that and give it to employees as a 1 percent COLA."
Mayor Timothy W. Darr said Parker's suggestion may warrant a debate, as he felt that a 1 percent increase might not benefit the right people in the right way.
"Are we trying to help the people at the bottom of the scale or the top of the scale," he asked. "Who needs it the most?"
Darr also suggested that any discussion of salary or position changes in the proposed budget be fully delved into at a later work session.
"I want to make sure that we address all personnel moves in one separate conversation," Darr said.
Parker also asked that $400 in apparel for council be stricken from the budget.
"I don't see any point in taxpayers paying to put clothes on our backs," he said.
A $25,000 increase is proposed for advertising purposes, but Councilman Thomas E. Conkey pointed out that in lodging taxes alone, the town expected over $200,000 in tax revenue.
The finance department requested a $5,000 increase for postage, though finance director Kim Gilkey-Breeden said that staff is "challenged everyday to decrease that."
The cost comes largely from sending out letters to residents at risk of having utilities shut off.
"We try to give them a last-ditch chance," she said. "Postage is our biggest expense."
Parker asked for staff to investigate the possibility of e-billing for the town, in hopes of decreasing postage expenses.
Council will continue budget discussion at their next work session April 16th.