Viewpoint: City budget changes are significantIn the midst of a busy political campaign season, your city council has been quietly hard at work wrestling with our 2009 budget.
By: Bill Hargis, Viewpoint Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
In the midst of a busy political campaign season, your city council has been quietly hard at work wrestling with our 2009 budget.
This coming fiscal year has been very challenging to prepare for, perhaps the most difficult in my 15 years as mayor, due to the economic challenges of our citizens, the small tax base increase and a large drop in our non-property tax revenues.
Additionally, the “Truth-in-Taxation” levy had to be set without the benefit of the council’s more-detailed early review of the budget because of the late addition of levy limits by the Legislature and the lack of firm information on which to base our initial projections.
Since we established the preliminary levy prior to Sept. 15 as required by law, the city council met in late September and mid-October to review the budget in greater detail.
The outcome was to further reduce the budget by $777,489 on top of the $1.5 million that was previously cut from budget requests to balance the budget.
Based on the updated property valuation estimates from the county, the impact to the average-value home will be reduced from the initially-projected $47 to $8, or a 0.9 percent increase compared to last year.
In addition, the updated valuation estimates reduce the tax rate increase from the initially projected 5.4 percent to just one percent.
These changes would put the city budget substantially below, and without regard to, the amount allowed under the state levy limit.
In addition to providing the most updated information related to the city’s budget, I would like to clarify a misleading headline that appeared in the Oct. 22 Woodbury Bulletin. The front page secondary headline for the story titled “Council directs more than $750K in cuts to budget” quotes me as saying “Adjustments are symbolic in time of economic stress.” This statement I made referred to the decision of the council to forgo any bi-annual increase to their stipend (the mayor earns $710 per month and each council member earns $545 per month), certainly not the three-quarters of a million dollars of budget cuts.
These changes and the lean budget we are in the process of establishing has not been easy. We will have five fewer personnel positions in 2009 compared to 2008.
The council members and I recognize the times and financial challenges we are all facing and we are committed to making our local government as responsive and efficient as possible, without resorting to one-time fixes, budget gimmicks or resting on the amount allowed by levy limits.
Citizens who are interested in commenting on the city budget are encouraged to attend the truth-in-taxation public hearing Dec. 1 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Woodbury City Hall Council Chambers, 8301 Valley Creek Road.
Hargis is the Mayor of Woodbury.