With relatively little discussion Tuesday night, Waynesboro City Council approved a $117.6 million total budget for fiscal year 2020, including general fund spending of about $51.6 million.
Council also approved staff recommended tax rates — 90 cents per $100 of assessed value on real estate and $3.25 cents per $100 of assessed value on personal property and machinery and tools.
The real estate tax maintains the current rate, but due to reassessment the city is expected to receive an additional $1.1 million in revenue. Council would have had to reduce the rate to 85 cents per $100 of assessed value to maintain tax revenues at the current level.
The personal property rate increases from the current rate of $2.50.
The only dissenting vote came from Councilman Bruce Allen, who moved to reduce the proposed personal property tax rate to $3.05. Allen’s motion died for a lack of a second and the $3.25 rate passed 4-1.
Council on unanimous 5-0 votes also approved staff recommended 1.1 percent increases in water and sewer rates while the stormwater fee paid by property owners for impervious surfaces will go up by 15 percent.
Mayor Terry Short, commenting on the budget process, acknowledged the often emotional comments and discussion during prior public hearings in the weeks that preceded Tuesday’s vote.
“I very much see the path forward for our community,” Short said of the budget, which takes effect July 1. He said the spending plan, approved after seven months of debate, addresses the “core functions of government.”
CR Barrett, one of only three people to specifically address council members about the budget and tax rates after their votes, expressed her disappointment, arguing as she had during previous public hearings that the city is asking too much of property owners. The cumulative effect she told council will push Waynesboro's most vulnerable, the poor and the elderly, out of the city.
Barrett argued that the city still had areas of fat that could be cut from its capital projects spending, starting with the $1.8 million Sunset Park project.
This budget sets aside more than $850,000 in fiscal 2020 for Sunset Park, with work on the project still likely a year away.
"[I am] very disappointed to see that the tax increases have gone forward," said Barrett, a resident of Ridge Circle. "We have six existing parks. Spending $1 million on Sunset Park is immoral. ... Again we have to think about all the citizens."
Following public comment, Short asked council to work with staff during the summer on reviewing its criteria for providing tax relief to city property owners. A property owner may qualify for an exemption based on age, disability and income.
During the 2018 tax year, 160 property owners qualified for relief, totaling about $105,000, Short said.
The city's budget includes more than $15.1 million in local funding, not including debt service, for Waynesboro City Public Schools, an increase of about $126,000 from the current fiscal year. The division’s fiscal 2020 budget totals about $37.7 million.