By Alex Bridges
Budgets and higher utility rates for several Shenandoah County towns appear headed for approval after drawing little to no protest this week.
No one spoke at the required public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2014 budget held by Edinburg Town Council on Tuesday.
Mayor and Town Manager Daniel Harshman explained the changes to the utility rates and fees as well as the proposed fiscal 2014 budget in his monthly newsletter. Harshman noted Wednesday that neither he nor other council members had heard from residents about the budget or rates prior to the public hearing.
"Everyone seemed to have understood what we were doing and we didn't have any comments at all," Harshman said.
Edinburg's proposed fiscal 2014 budget includes a general fund of $1.01 million and an "enterprise" fund of $996,105 that covers utilities provided by the town.
Edinburg council also held a public hearing on an amendment to the current budget. The town has collected less revenue so far this fiscal period than anticipated in the budget approved last spring, Harshman noted.
The amendment sets the revenues for the current fiscal period at $767,887 for the general fund and $535,000 for the enterprise. The budget as adopted last spring reflected anticipated revenues of $809,843 in the general fund and $600,000 in the enterprise fund.
The mayor said council plans to adopt the fiscal 2014 budget at its June 11 meeting.
"It's always a challenge for a little town to come up the revenues," Harshman said. "The big thing for us has just been maintenance on water and sewer. The treatment plants and things are starting to age and we're starting to get hit with bigger and bigger repair bills."
Late last week, Edinburg officials issued an alert asking that residents conserve water. The request remained in effect through Wednesday. The town removed the alert from its website by Thursday. A mechanical problem prompted the town to ask residents to refrain from using water to wash vehicles, water lawns and other activities.
"While we have it fixed, we're still waiting for parts to come in and so, being a mechanical problem, we have concerns that it could come up again before parts get here," Harshman said. "But all of our water tanks are full now."
The town proposed increases in the water and sewer rates and Harshman advised in his newsletter that Edinburg faces higher costs to provide services to customers. This also includes the cost to replace outdated software and equipment.
Strasburg Town Council also held its public hearing on its proposed fiscal 2014 budget and increases in utility rates and fees on Tuesday.
The proposed budget calls for $4.2 million in revenue for the general fund compared to the current amount of $4.04 million. The water fund is expected to increase from $2.4 million to $2.60 million. Sewer is expected to increase from $2.59 million to $2.85 million. Trash is expected to increase from $290,115 to $296,445.
Strasburg resident Staton Strother spoke at the hearing and commented that over time his utility bills have increased and that this occurred in years before the town made upgrades to the water and wastewater treatment systems. Strother claimed his costs increased by 50 percent every five years. Finance Director Dottie Mullins indicated she would look into Strother's claims. Strother also asked council whether Strasburg has any laws that forbid a homeowner from installing a well on property in town limits.
Strasburg recently completed construction of a new water treatment system. Strasburg also faces the need to upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant. The cost to complete these major projects means increasing water and sewer rates for town customers over time.
In both Edinburg and Strasburg, as well as Mt. Jackson, Woodstock and New Market, the proposed town budgets call for no increase in the property tax rates.
New Market Town Council's public hearing on the budget held Monday drew comments from one resident who lauded officials on the spending plan but also voiced worry over a future cost of transporting prisoners out of the county to the regional jail.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org