Wednesday, 12 June 2019 20:20

Rockingham Council passes nearly $18.5M budget with no tax increase

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The Rockingham Police Department will be appropriated the largest amount ($3.1 million) from the General Fund in the 2019-20 budget. The Rockingham Police Department will be appropriated the largest amount ($3.1 million) from the General Fund in the 2019-20 budget. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Council members on Tuesday unanimously passed the city’s budget for the next fiscal year of $18,459,060.

For the 15th year in a row, the property tax rate will remain at $0.48 per $100 of valuation. The rate was lowered from $0.50 in the 2004-05 budget.

The largest expenditures from the General Fund will go to provide services, with the police department receiving the largest chunk: $3,113,322. The fire department, which plans to buy a new truck next year, will get $1,28,989 and $1,136,918 will be set aside for sanitation.

The fourth-highest expenditure is for recreation ($622,917), which the city picked up the brunt of when the county eliminated its program 25 years ago.

City Manager Monty Crump said the budget also includes a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for city employees.

Crump credited the city’s “stable, sound financial position year-in and year-out” on the leadership of the council and the municipal employees “who do an outstanding job.”

“Sixty percent of them have been here 10 years or longer,” he said. “They know their jobs and understand their jobs. They’re able to do projects, identify savings and look after taxpayer money as well. That’s where the money is saved, it’s saved out of the departments ... money that we’ve been able to put aside over the years …”

Councilman Bennett Deane also commended the city employees.

“We are so fortunate that we don’t have to contract out on so many jobs and so many projects that other cities have to do due to the experience of these employees who get things done in-house,” he said.

City leaders estimate $5,753,182 in revenues from local taxes, nearly $4 million in additional revenue (including state taxes and Powell Bill funds) and will appropriate $500,000 from the fund balance to balance the budget.

There was a public hearing on the budget — but, as in most council meetings, there was no one to speak in favor or against because there was no one in the audience.

The council also adopted budget amendments to balance the current year’s budget, which was thrown off partially due to city employees working overtime during Hurricane Florence.

Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson said that although a lot of discussion centered around the budget, it was “a good time to reflect on the year past.”

“It’s remarkable that we started off with two really difficult hurricanes and the damage and the overtime and the destruction that those brought,” he said. “And yet, through the year … we overcame … we’ve had great things to happen this past fiscal year, with (Richmond Community College) breaking ground, with the renovations on the square downtown, with the continuation of the theater under new management, new businesses coming downtown that were not located there a year ago.

“It’s been a very successful year and sometimes in the excitement about a new budget and the things that’s going to bring, we don’t reflect on what we’ve done,” he said. “And I think the city staff is to be commended and I think the citizens should be very excited about what was accomplished last year.”