The Town of Walkersville adopted its 2016 Budgets for Water and General Funds last night with little fan fare. All votes were unanimous and no members of the public spoke in opposition or support.
After deciding to keep its tax rate “the lowest in Maryland,” Town Commissioners voted to adopt the General Fund budget present at its last meeting with one minor change. At the urging of Burgess Ralph Whitmore, a parks project mostly funded by Project Open Space was added to the budget. Even with the project added, the budget is slightly smaller than last year’s of over $3,083,000.
At $0.15, Walkersville’s Burgess and Town Commissioners proudly reminded residents that they pay the lowest taxes for a town their size. Though the tax rate did not change, income from property taxes will increase slightly by approximately 2% to $853,000.
The largest reductions in the budget come from the loss of some sources of income. Instead of collecting interest on the mortgage for Walker Farm, the Town of Walkersville expects the owners of Walkers Overlook to pay a balloon payment. In all, ten categories of income are expected to decline including highway taxes, liquor licenses, interest, and franchise fees.
The decreases in income do not seem to have a large impact on the expenditures. Most of the savings come from the completion of large roads projects that will not be done next year. The Economic Development Commission, and the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company will receive fewer tax dollars next year from the Town. The EDC budget declined 25%. The Fire Company will receive $2,000 less than last year, a 14% reduction. Most items remained the same. The Town did commit to paying for the Friends of the Walkersville Library’s storage space which increased community donations 75%. Computer expenses were projected to increase 62%. Legal expenses and equipment purchases were the only items that would more than double in costs. Salaries were only expected to increase 2% for office staff and 3% for maintenance staff.
The Water Fund drew much more discussion from the Commissioners. With a new water treatment plant being built, Commissioners want to be sure the fund is self-sufficient. They approved the balanced water fund budget as presented at $1,620,686, but expressed concerns for the future.
The budget approved budget is 25% higher than last year which was 35% higher than the year before. The 2016 Water Fund Budget represents a 69% increase since 2014.
Town Commissioners directed the Town Manager to present impacts of increases on water customer’s bills. One proposal was a 1% increase on water fees on all but the base fee of $50. After discussing the base fee, Commissioners also asked how many people only pay the base fee and discussed increasing it $10.
While water rates will remain the same for now, Town Commissioners discussed raising fees after bills are sent for the current cycle ending in October of 2015.