City Manager Leon Towarnicki presented a summary of the proposed $109,892,325 budget at a Tuesday meeting of Martinsville City Council.
Key points of the spending plan would keep the current real estate tax of $1.04/$100 of assessed value; a proposed 8 percent electric rate increase, as well as another rate increase that likely would be necessary in January.
The spending plan would reduce the requested $6,167,637 in school funding by $750,000, for a total of $5,417,637; and includes a 5 percent reduction for most city departments. School funding is still $339,854 more than the average audited actual local contribution for the most recent 4-year period of fiscal years 2019 – 22. The actual audited school contribution in fiscal 2022 was $4,940,076.
The proposal includes level funding for outside agencies, except for certain agencies such as 911 and the Department of Social Services.
The city also plans a personnel addition of a law clerk for Circuit Court (confirmed to be a one-year position), while implementing a temporary hiring freeze in other areas.
City employees and constitutional officers would receive a 7 percent cost of living adjustment to match the state’s adjustment and help employees cover the increase in health insurance costs and allow the city to remain competitive in salaries.
The initial proposal included a revenue increase of $4,047,643 from the original Fiscal Year 2023 budget, with a proposed general fund budget of $37,828,870 compared to $37,062,878 for the current fiscal year. Around $1.5 million of ARPA funding would be used to fill the budget’s funding deficit.
A budget work session was held on May 10 with city schools to review capital, followed by a second session on May 16 that included outside agencies such as 911, social services, and the library, followed by a review of city constitutional and departmental budgets. It was noted between the time of the initial budget presentation on April 25 and May 26, it was concluded both a water and sewer rate increase were needed, and a recommended $3 increase for each was discussed.
A third work session was held on May 17 to discuss the previous sessions and answer questions, with alternative budget recommendations by Vice Mayor Aaron Rawls. A fourth work session was held May 22, and staff were instructed to develop an alternative plan that reduced the real estate tax by $0.05/$100, and eliminated the use of ARPA funds.
Rawls stated that the council would like to restore at least two police officer positions, as well as restore some funding to schools.
The council will decide what to leave in the budget, remove, change, modify, etc., with final adoption and second reading of the budget scheduled for the June 13 meeting.
City resident Ural Harris presented comments on the budget at the meeting.
“This budget is totally unfair to the citizens of the city, the poor, and the seniors,” said Harris. “You put all these raises in, it’s going to hit some people over $100 a month. It’s going to hit me around $50. What are the seniors and those on social security going to do?”
In other matters, the council:
*Recognized William Wall, a 7th grade student at Martinsville Middle School. Wall won the Virginia Municipal League Region 2 winner of the 2023 “If I Were Mayor” essay contest. Wall was presented with a certificate and a gift card from a VML representative, and his essay will be featured in the Virginia Municipal League magazine.
*Set a public hearing for June 13 to receive names of those interested in appointment to the Martinsville City School Board. There are two 3-year terms, ending June 30, 2026, and one unexpired 3-year term ending on June 30, 2024.
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