Budget Proposal: Robertson Advises Raising Water & Sewer Bills $23.34 A Month
By Linda Farneth
Town Manager Quinn Robertson gave an overview of the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget at the April 3rd Town Council Work Session. Robertson presented highlights of the budget and budget process, briefly explained how revenues were projected, discussed briefly where the money will be spent and finally why he recommends an increase in water and sewer bills.
Robertson said he is confident in projecting Fiscal Year 2020's budget due to successful projections for the current year.
Robertson said, “Remember back to last year, it was the first chance for Ms. Gomez [Financial Advisor] and myself to get a hold of the budget and we had to make some serious changes in terms of how things were reported for the upcoming year. We knew that previous projections in previous years were off.”
Robertson said he did not want to use the term “flying blind” but it was a trial year for him and staff. “Right now what I'm excited about is where we are in fiscal year 19 is right where we projected we would be.”
“That leads me to believe what you have in front of you for FY 20, I have a lot of confidence in.”
“What you're also going to see is a slight increase in revenues.” Robertson predicts an increase based on county assessments going up slightly.
Robertson said, “We were also excited to be able to return to historical staffing levels.” He reminded the council that the town had to implement a hiring freeze last summer. Several employees left during that freeze. Robertson said he had to work with department heads to re-evaluate what positions can continue and where new employees can be added. The Police Department and Public Works have been the most significant areas where new staff has been added.
According to Robertson the estimates for revenue in 2020 are conservative based on the impact the weather had on Fiscal year 19. “I think it was 37 weekends rained out, over twice the amount of annual rain. The most rain this region has seen in over half a century. That effected revenues.”
Robertson said, “I don't expect Mother Nature to do the same to us this year, but what I have to do is to base our numbers in this budget, off of what we experienced last year.”
However he said that despite all the rain the town was able to hit the revenues that staff projected which he said speaks a lot to the town's add campaign and volunteers who continued with events even in the bad weather.
In Fiscal year 19 the town experienced some debt which Robertson said was particularly due to the Virginia 911 agreement. “We do not anticipate FY20 debt increasing again.”
The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget was $7,098,715.53. The projected revenue for FY20 Budget is $7,291,783.14 which is an increase of $193,061.63.
Robertson said the increases that significantly contribute to the revenue are parking, streets, real estate assessments and law enforcement assistance.
Projected expenditures match the projected revenues at $7,291,783.14.
Robertson said it was a lot of work, but a lot of positive came out of going through the budget line by line with department heads to help understand where money is best spent, where to increase and where to decrease spending.
“With that we able to hire additional staff to get back to the level it should be while minimizing expenditure increases.”
Robertson said the Police Department Staff was at very low numbers. “With this budget we feel confident that we will have a very well staffed police force that's going to be able to go out there and do the job that we ask them to.”
Water and Sewer:
Robertson discussed the proposed water and sewer increase last. Although public works activities are funded by the general fund and included in the budget. Water and sewer must pay for itself through fees.
“We are still trying to go through the exact details of the water and sewer separate from the general fund,” Robertson said. “But we wanted to go ahead and preliminarily address it. What we are seeing is the necessity for an increase in water and sewer rates.”
Current water and sewer rates are billed quarterly at $235.00. This breaks down to $24.10 a month for water and $54.23 a month for sewer.
Robertson proposes that water and sewer rates be raised to $35.00 a month for water and $66.67 a month for sewer for a total raise of $23.34 a month.
Billing Quarterly, if approved by council, water and sewer will rise from $235.00 to $305.01.
Robertson said, “This increase in water rates is actually what we recommended last year but we did not implement.”
Robertson told council members he wanted them to be aware and he planned to give a more detailed presentation on the proposed water rates when staff had more accurate figures.