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City budget passes first reading

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By Jesef Williams

jwilliams@thelancasternews.com

There are no across-the-board raises for employees or tax increases planned for residents as part of the city of Lancaster’s proposed 2009-2010 budget.

City Council voted unanimously Thursday on first reading to adopt the $20 million budget, which is 6.1 percent less than the $21.3 million budget this year.

The budget has to pass two readings before it is adopted.

Taxes and rates

There are no changes from the current year to 2009-’10 in the millage rate on property tax, which is 143.5 mills. That equals $574 in taxes on a $100,000 home.

However, there is a proposed 5 percent increase in water and sewer rates and a 10 percent increase in solid waste pickup.

“I characterize this budget as being one that is intended to maintain services – not diminish services,” finance director Jim Wilson said. “We’re trying to hold steady, wait things out and see how the economy changes.”

Salaries

Although there are no across-the-board salary increases (based on merit or cost of living), Sowell said there are proposed adjustments for several positions, including the city’s entry-level firefighters.

“We’re making some small modifications to make them more comparable (to salaries of entry-level police officers),” Sowell said. That change will cost the city about $32,000.

Councilwoman Linda Blackmon Brace disagreed with the proposed raises.

“In these economic times, to even ask for that increase is kind of bad,” she said.  

The budget calls for the use of $1,200 to create a human resources department. That cost will bring the HR manager to the entry level of a department head.  These is also $1,750 budgeted to upgrade the court administrative assistant to an associate judge’s position.

City officials have proposed a significant cut in the purchase of vehicles and other equipment, and are reducing travel and training expenses by more than $37,000.

“I think the staff has come up with a fiscally responsible budget that continues to provide the enhanced services that our citizens want,” Sowell said.

City Council will vote on second and final reading of the budget  June 23.

 

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at 283-1152