Monday, February 12, 2007

Budget Passes

The city budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 finally passed Monday (Feb. 12, 2007) with promises for more timely passage in FY 2008.

The $68 million budget includes a municipal tax levy of $41.3 million, down from $43 million in the introduced budget. The City Council reduced a projected 8.2 percent tax increase to just below 4 percent, largely through the work of the council’s Finance Committee.

Property owners have already paid part of the increase through a state-mandated anticipated tax increase for the first two quarters of the fiscal year. The balance for the second and third quarters will amount to $56.50 on the average home assessed at $113,000.

The final rate is $3.24 per $100 of assessed valuation.

A thought: If any of those proposed $350,000 condos were up right now, would owners be paying $11,340 in municipal taxes alone?

The budget included a $20,000 increase for council expenses, which riled Councilman Harold Gibson. He said he would vote “yes” on the budget, but vowed to vigorously oppose the expenditure when it came before the council for a vote. Gibson said the money was intended to provide legal counsel to the governing body, but he said Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson already serves the council.

“I don’t see the need,” Gibson said.

Councilman Rashid Burney defended the proposed cost, saying it was a relatively small amount of money and citing the separation of powers between the governing body and the administration.

Currently, the council is fielding legalities of numerous redevelopment proposals with agreements being worked out among developers, the Union County Improvement Authority and the administration.

In the public hearing portion, speakers included Frank Johnson , president and CEO of the accounting and auditing form J.F. Johnson. He congratulated the council on reaching budget passage, but noted the process was overly long and offered his expertise for the FY 2008 budget process.

Johnson called the budget process a management tool and not a means to an end.

Resident Tony Rucker called for a better budget process and City Administrator
Marc Dashield responded, “It will be a more efficient process.”

--Bernice Paglia


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