City gives final OK to $20M budget

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No tax hike, but water, sewer rates to increase 5 percent

By Jesef Williams

Joe Shaw said the new fiscal year is only the first or second time in his more than 20 years as Lancaster mayor that the city’s employees won’t receive across-the-board raises.

When considering such tough decisions and cuts that had to be made, Shaw said he’s pleased with the city’s 2009-10 budget.

City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed final reading of the $20 million budget, which is 6.1 percent less than the current budget.

There will be no tax increase for the city’s residents, as the millage rate remains at 143.5 mills. That equals to $574 in taxes on a $100,000 home.

Residents, though, will face a 5 percent increase in water and sewer rates. There’s also a 10 percent hike for commercial solid waste pick up.

Shaw said he doesn’t think what’s in the budget will take away from the quality of service the city provides to its residents.

That was a major aim, he said.

“I’m pleased,” Shaw said about the budget. “I’m proud of our staff. They’ve done a good job.”

The new budget includes no raises based on merit or cost of living, though there are some pay adjustments, including those for entry-level firefighters.

Those firefighters (FF1, FF2 and engineer) will now have a salary comparable to that of a beginning police officer, said city Administrator Helen Sowell.

That change will cost about $32,000.  

Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace disagrees with the pay raises.

“Our firefighters are valued and respected for the service they provide to our community, and I agree that an increase in their salaries should be considered,” Blackmon-Brace said in a statement.

“However, at this time due to our economic conditions and budget cuts throughout the United States, I am not in agreement to a pay increase.”

The budget also includes the creation of a human resources department, in which the HR manager will now be brought up to the entry level of a department head.

Those changes cost $1,200.

The city will spend $1,750 to upgrade the court administrative assistant to an associate judge’s position.

There are also significant cuts in the purchase of vehicles and other equipment, as well as a $37,000 reduction in travel and training expenses.

The new budget takes effect July 1.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com  or at (803) 283-1152