With a volley of compliments to the men and women who help run the city government, the Rockingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted the city’s spending plan for the next fiscal year.
After holding a public hearing, at which no residents attended, the council approved a 2013-14 general fund budget of $9,118,302, an increase of $259,378 over the 2012-13 general fund budget of $8,858,924.
“It’s a good budget,” declared Mayor Steve Morris, before the vote for adoption.
The new budget — which takes effect July 1 — keep the city’s tax rate the same for property owners, and includes a modest increase in pay for city employees.
The 2013-14 budget, prepared by City Manager Monty Crump, Finance Director Hazel Tew and staff, keeps the city’s tax at .48 cents per $100 of valuation. It has been at that level for a decade.
The new budget includes a total of 131 full-time positions fully funded for the coming fiscal year. “For the second time in four years the proposed 2013/2014 Budget contains a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for city employees in the amount of 2 (percent),” Crump wrote.
Morris commended the work of Crump and City Hall staff who worked to author the new budget.
“It’s very conservative … there is a lot of uncertainty when looking 12 months down the road. This is a good budget,” Morris repeated, “and I thank you folks.”
Councilman Bennett Deane III agreed it is a good budget, and noted, “all without changing the tax rate.”
In his report on the budget, Crump wrote, “The City is fortunate to continue to be in the sound financial position that it is in given the state of the economy and financial pressures over the last several years due to low growth. The proposed FY 2013/2014 Budget does provide for the continuation of the same level of city services with no tax increase and only a minimal increase in water and sewer rates while maintaining the sound financial condition of the City. I give our employees great credit for the part each one continues to play in managing city resources.”
The budget includes a water and sewer rate increase of about 5 percent, Crump noted, which is expected to bring in approximately $272,500 in new revenue, beginning July 1, 2013.
Council members took turns commending the city’s employees for fiscal responsibility, for stretching dollars, for getting the most out of equipment.
Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson said that while a lot of credit is due Crump and Tew, the city is also blessed to have “very good department managers and staff,” who know how to “get years and years of use” from equipment. “We owe them a debt of gratitude, and I’d like to thank them also,” he said.
Councilman Travis Billingsley said he’s proud of the “people” and the “process” that have helped to keep the city in good financial shape, and helped city workers continue to deliver good service to residents. “The service we provide says a lot,” he said.
Councilman Gene Willard said the city has “very talented employees,” and this helps the city save money. He used as an example work being done on the Hitchcock Creek project, and at Hinson Lake, and how city workers have utilized their skills at these recreational areas.
“We have a wonderful bunch of employees and they’re not always recognized,” Willard said.
Deane agreed, adding that city department heads “go above and beyond” to help keep the city on solid financial ground.
In other matters Tuesday, the City Council:
• Adopted budget amendments to the current fiscal year budget for 2012-13.
• Scheduled a public hearing for July 9 on the proposed “Shaping Our Future: 2023,” the official land use plan for the city.
• Learned from the mayor that the city has been awarded with a $726,298 grant, which will be used to further extend sanitary sewer lines to residences in East Rockingham.
• Noted the rescheduled free Plaza Jam concert, held next to City Hall, will be 6:30 p.m. June 20, featuring the Fantasy Band.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.