Salisbury officials on Monday night gave preliminary approval to a $70.9 million spending package for fiscal 2023 that includes some fee increases, but maintains the current property tax rate of 98.32 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The proposed budget takes a “cautious approach” to spending as the city deals with rising gas prices and inflation, including a $1 million increase in the cost of chemicals needed for water and sewer treatment, said Mayor Jake Day.
“That just kills us,” he said. “It affects everything.”
This year’s priorities include keeping the city’s vision alive as well as three step pay increases for city workers. The latter was deemed necessary to keep employees on the job instead of being lured away to higher paying positions.
“It’s the most cutthroat job market I’ve ever seen,” Day said. “We don’t want to lose employees.”
Overall, the city is doing well financially as it still has money from federal pandemic assistance programs, but Day said next year could be a challenge.
This will be the sixth year in a row without a property tax increase, but the continuation of a gradual increase in fees.
Under the new fee schedule, water and sewer rates will increase by 6 percent across the board for all residential and commercial customers both inside and outside city limits. The changes will be effective Oct. 1.
For example, in-city residential and small commercial metered water users would see an increase on the minimum charge from $23.80 per quarter to $25.33 and a commodity charge increase from $3.55 to $3.76 per 1,000 gallons. Sewer rates for those same customers would increase from a minimum charge of $58.77 to $62.30 per quarter and a commodity charge increase from $8.81 to $9.34 per 1,000 gallons.
Large commercial users and customers outside city limits also will see increases on both their water and sewer bills.
Residential trash service fees will increase from $63 per quarter to $67. City officials have cited a need to increase those fees after the Covid-19 pandemic forced many residents to work and go to school from home, causing the amount of household trash -- and the city’s bill at the landfill – to increase substantially.
Other city fees, including those for landlord licensing, will remain the same.
Revenue sources for the city come from a combination of real, personal and corporation taxes. grants and various funds.
The budget includes a $49.5 million general fund, with $16.2 million will go to the Police Department, $10.8 million to the Fire Department, $6.4 million to Field Operations, and $2.3 million for the city’s new Arts, Business and Culture Department.
The city also has budgeted $887,510 for the Parking Authority Fund, $19.5 million in the Water and Sewer Fund, $91,576 in the Marina Fund and $930,232 in the Storm Water Fund.
City officials have also included $6.29 million for general capital improvement projects such as street paving, Downtown streetscaping and City Park improvements, and an additional $2.2 million in water and sewer capital projects and $10.75 million for a parking garage.
A public hearing on the proposed FY23 budget, the proposed water and sewer rates, fees and constant yield is scheduled to take place during the next City Council meeting on May 9.
Final adoption of the budget will take place in either late May or early June. The new budget will take effect on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.