By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Woodstock residents -- at least the non-smokers -- won't see any tax increases under the town's proposed fiscal 2013 budget, but they will see their water bills go up.
The Woodstock Town Council had a public hearing on the proposed $8.5 million budget May 1, but no one from the public spoke up. Of that budget, about $4.8 million is for the general fund, with about $3.8 million for the public utilities fund.
The current fiscal year's estimated budget is $8.3 million.
Real-estate taxes would remain at 15 cents per $100 of assessed value, and personal property taxes at 90 cents per $100, Finance Director Mandy Belyea said in a Monday phone interview. The cigarette tax will increase from 10 cents to 25 cents, she said.
"That's consistent with surrounding localities," she said. "It's an effort to not have to increase water and sewer rates even higher than what we are doing."
Water and sewer bills will go up by $6.10 starting July 1, Belyea said. Residents paying for the minimum usage -- 2,500 gallons -- will see their bill go from $54.44 to $60.54, Belyea said. That reflects a $4.10 hike in water rates, and $2.00 in sewer costs, bringing the minimum water bill to $19.12, and the sewer to $41.42.
Two years ago, the town increased water rates by 20 percent, and sewer rates 10 percent to help pay for the new wastewater treatment plant.
"We hadn't done a water rate increase particularly because we had done such massive sewer rate increases that we didn't want to burden the residents even further with water increases," Belyea said. "[The increases are] essential to stay in the black. Plus, we're doing other things, such as the cigarette tax increase. The money received from that is going to be utilized for the water and sewer fund."
The higher tobacco taxes are expected to bring in $185,000 in fiscal 2013, up nearly $100,000 from an expected $85,000 this year.
Employees' salaries are going up, but they are not going to see an increase in take-home pay. Changes to the Virginia Retirement System mean employees have to pay 5 percent of their share to the pension fund, but localities must raise their salary by the same amount.
"Their salaries go up a little over 5 percent, but they have to pay their retirement, so it's a trade," Town Manager Larry Bradford said. "Other than that, there are no raises."
The town was able to do that without raising property taxes.
"We were able to work it in the budget," Bradford said.
He said the town council is expected to vote on the budget June 5.