Williamsport considers higher spending, sewer rates

June 07, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT -- A 2.7 percent spending increase is proposed in Williamsport's 2008-09 budget, with town sewer rates rising to offset a hike by Washington County.

The town is considering keeping its property tax rate at 40.5 cents per $100 of assessed value -- although tax bills would rise as property values do.

Town employees again would be eligible for merit raises up to 5 percent, as they were this year.

The overall proposed budget -- the general, electric, and water and sewer funds -- is $4.1 million, up about $108,000 from the current year.

The general fund budget would rise from $1.16 million to $1.22 million, or about 5 percent.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said two expenses make up much of the general fund increase.

One is town pool repairs for $52,000. The town will be reimbursed almost $29,000 from the state, then must pay the remaining $23,000 or so.


The other significant expense is tied to sewage rates.

Washington County will charge Williamsport 7 percent more for sewer service in 2008-09.

Instead of passing along the full increase to residents, town officials might limit it to 5 percent -- requiring about $32,000 from the general fund to pay the difference.

Town water rates would not increase.

The sum of those expenses roughly equals the proposed $55,225 increase in general fund spending.

The town council will hold public hearings Monday on water and sewer rates at 6:30 p.m. and the proposed budget at 6:45 p.m.

The fiscal year begins July 1.

Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones said grants and other state funding largely will pay for next year's roads and alleys projects.

Projects ahead include alley upgrades, a road through Byron Memorial Park and curb cuts for handicapped accessibility, Jones said.

Councilman Jeff Cline said he's against possible 5 percent merit raises because the council isn't involved in awarding them.

"I think it (should be) a more team-oriented decision," he said.

Cline also spoke against funding increases proposed for nonprofit groups.

Some, such as the Williamsport Community Band and the Boy Scouts, would get more money next year under the proposed budget. Williamsport Youth Soccer would get $3,000, after getting nothing this year or last year, according to a budget draft.

Cline said the organizations are worthwhile, but the council should get to review formal requests and see financial statements, which doesn't happen now.

The revenue estimate for pool admission fees is up from $30,000 this year to $47,729 next year. McCleaf said about 300 children were signed up for swim lessons on the first day this year, more than double the number that signed up the first day last year.

High gas prices should make the local pool more popular, he said.

Higher revenue also is projected in a donations line, from $5,000 this year to $10,000 next year. McCleaf said town employees plan to hold two fundraising car shows instead of one.

Also, motorists who drive through the annual Christmas lights display at the park will be asked, for the first time, for a small donation -- maybe 50 cents per car, McCleaf said.

If you go

What: Public hearings on Williamsport's proposed 2008-09 budget and water and sewer rates

When: Monday, water and sewer rate hearing at 6:30 p.m.; budget hearing at 6:45 p.m.

Where: Williamsport Town Hall

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