Williamsport town council approves budget

June 25, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - Despite "lots of little" cuts, next year's Williamsport budget leaves services intact and brings the town close to financial health - without a tax increase, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

The town council on Friday voted 5-0 to approve the $3.1 million budget for fiscal year 2005-06. Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones arrived after the vote.

On paper, the budget is about $200,000 less than the current year's. However, in an interview on Monday, McCleaf said it's impossible to determine the true change because the numbers in the 2004-05 budget are unreliable.


For 2005-06, the town's property tax rate will stay 40.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Last year, as mayor, John W. Slayman said the tax rate has been at that level - or its equivalent - for more than 20 years.

The water rate will stay at $11.99 for 2,000 gallons per month.

The sewer rates is likely to rise 20 percent - from $10.86 to $13.03 - for 2,000 gallons per month. A public hearing on the increase will be held July 11.

In May, auditor Ron Shifler reported that the town's finances have been poor. Shifler, of the accounting firm Teti & Carswell, said the town's $1.2 million general-fund budget in fiscal year 2004 had a $260,000 shortfall.

He said the water and sewer fund also was losing money, but the electricity fund had a surplus.

At the time, McCleaf said the town was advised to raise general-fund revenues by about 30 percent and revenues in the water and sewer fund by about 20 percent.

He said he asked department heads to cut their budgets by 30 percent. This week, McCleaf said cuts ended up closer to 20 percent.

In June, council members suggested new and amended fees to bring in money, such as higher charges to use amenities at Byron Memorial Park.

On Friday, the town council approved eliminating a prompt-payment discount for street sweeper and parking meter tickets and a new $20 charge to process permits.

During an interview this week, McCleaf said the fees and cuts offset three noteworthy expenditures: $25,000 for a new police car, $25,000 for a new library roof and $16,050 for a traffic light at Vermont and Salisbury streets.

The town pool fund was cut from almost $75,000 to $56,000. McCleaf said the town will take over operation of the pool from Century Pool Management of Monrovia, Md.

This year, the town budgeted $38,000 for community groups and events, but only gave out $28,000, so the fund has been cut to $19,175.

McCleaf said a Conococheague Street waterline leak detected eight months ago finally was fixed this month.

Councilman Jeff Cline, who heads the Parks Department, said the town will save gas, time and money by using volunteers' zero turn radius mowers.

Next year's budget includes a fund for employee raises of up to 5 percent. McCleaf said the town council will determine later if there's enough money for raises.

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