Monday’s council meeting was quick and painless with no discussion except to thank staff for their hard work in assembling the 2013 fiscal year budget for final adoption. The city manager, Chris Morrill’s “budgeting for outcomes” task began in September of 2011.
The $252.8 million budget was approached conservatively. Revenue is faring well and running slightly ahead of budget for 2012 due to outperforming sales tax, meals tax, occupancy tax and BPOL tax revenue that offsets a decline in real estate assessments. The 2013 budget allows for one-percent growth over 2012.
City employees will get a three-percent raise if they meet performance levels. The step grade has also been adjusted. City retirees are receiving a 1.5-percent COLA increase.
Various fee increases were adjusted more or less for purposes of consistency rather than revenue gains. Parking tickets will go from $10 to $20 for all infractions. Athletic fencing rental now at zero will be $150 per section. Open space rental will change from $150 for eight hours to $150 per day. Towing of inoperable vehicles will have a $45 administrative fee. And EMS fees will go up from $350 to $375 for basic life support with advanced life support being raised from $600 to $650. Fire protection permit fees will increase by $10 and a fireworks permit rate schedule will be implemented – from $250 for 30-days notice to as much as $1500 for short notice.
Roanoke City Public Schools will get $72.8 million and the city’s two-percent meals tax will sunset on June 30th. The temporary tax dedicated to the schools gave the school system time to adjust to a reduction in state revenue. RCPS closed schools and reduced expenses.
At the joint meeting with the school board councilman Court Rosen asked school board chairman David Carson how he felt about getting through the next fiscal year without the 2-cent meals tax. Carson said that they were in “reasonably good shape but spending down savings.” He complained about Roanoke not getting the assistance needed from the state. “In the absence of that occurring it would benefit us to reduce spending,” he said.
The $12 million RCPS squirreled away came from both the meals tax and stimulus funds. Carson said their fund balance would prevent teacher cutbacks and give teachers a one-percent raise. “We are not spending excess but spending down savings,” repeated Carson.
Deputy Superintendent Curt Baker said, “It is clear that the Virginia Retirement System is going to be the wild card if it keeps increasing.” The draw down comes to $4 million this year and is a third of our total fund balance he said.
In an email Tuesday Carson said, “We appreciate council, all is fine, and all will be fine if the state funds school systems as it should.”