WOODSTOCK — Council members approved the town’s fiscal year 2020 budget of $12,502,993 on Tuesday evening.
The budget is a decrease of $679,487 from this year’s fiscal budget of $13,182,480.
“Once again this year, we are proud of the ability of our department heads to request funding conservatively, while still meeting the expectations of our citizens in terms of the level of service. In addition, we continue to make investments in our skilled workforce and important infrastructure,” Town Manager Angela Clem stated in an email Wednesday.
The budget includes a $7,842,675 general fund projection and $4,660,318 for the utility fund.
The biggest anticipated expense to the town is $2,067,113 for the Public Safety Department, which includes police and fire, and $1,871,976 for the Public Works Department, which is responsible for maintaining the town’s infrastructure.
The budget includes a 3% salary increase for town employees and a utility rate increase. The rate for using less than 2,500 gallons of water will increase $1.50 a month from the current rate of $26.90 to $28.40. For the next 47,500 gallons, the rate will increase 10 cents from the current rate of $9.39 to $9.49. For the next 50,000 gallons after that, the rate will increase 10 cents from $8.98 to $9.08. For water use over 100,000 gallons, the rate will increase 10 cents from $8.52 to $8.62.
Some of the biggest upcoming expenses include $450,000 for the Route 42 waterline boring project under Interstate 81. A 60-year-old, 8-inch high-pressure water line hangs under Route 42 and over I-81.
It has broken three times in the last two years resulting in safety issues. The waterline will be replaced using trenchless technology.
There is also a utility initiative for research replacement and financing of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Membrane Filtration System, scheduled to occur in two years.
Also on Tuesday, the council approved the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails project. Deputy Town Manager Mandy Belyea was one of several who worked on the project. She said she was thrilled that the master plan was adopted.
“The master plan is the foundation to realizing our vision of becoming a community that offers its residents and visitors a high-quality trail network that serves as an active and safe form of recreation and transportation. This master plan is a fantastic opportunity to enhance our outdoor recreational amenities and to continue promoting tourism and economic growth,” said Belyea, who will be leaving the town in July to become Shenandoah County’s new assistant administrator.
The master plan for the Woodstock loop trails will provide 10.8 miles of paths and trails connecting Woodstock residents and visitors to neighborhood parks, schools, and the historic downtown without having to get in a car.
It is made up of a combination of existing sidewalks, and proposed sidewalks, bicycle boulevards, shared-use paths, a sidepath, and bike lanes with sidewalks.
The first phase of the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails is estimated at $1 million. Surveying and engineering work should begin in July, said Clem.
Members of the Finance Committee recommended approving a budget amendment that would add $46,000 to the town’s current budget. The town received proceeds from the sale of a dump truck and plow, branding merchandise and Virginia Department of Transportation snow removal monies, Clem said.
Town Council approved writing off $5,425 in unpaid personal property tax and $9,217 in unpaid utility accounts from 2013. “After five years, we are required to write off uncollectable utility bills and personal property bills. It is required by state law,” Clem said. This is more than in 2018 when the town wrote off $4,880 in personal property tax and $7,230 in utility bills.
Clem told council members that Woodstock’s Public Works Department this week is undergoing its accreditation process with accessors from various parts of the country in the plant.
Amy Dill, the town’s new finance director, was introduced. Dill took over from John O’Neil, who held the position from 2014 until he retired in February. She began working for the town on May 20. Dill has worked for the City of Staunton and for the City of Winchester. She also worked for Shenandoah University and most recently was a financial operations supervisor for Shenandoah Telecommunications Company. Her annual salary is $70,000.