Note: This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m.
The proposed city budget presented to Oak Ridge City Council members on Tuesday would leave the property tax rate unchanged, but it could include rate increases for water, sewer, and trash collection.
If approved by Council, the budget would not increase the property tax rate for the ninth year in a row. After five-year reappraisals last year, the rate is now set at $2.52 per $100 of assessed value.
The proposed budget includes a 3 percent pay adjustment that would move employees along their pay scales, helping to separate those who have worked for the city for a while from those who have just started.
The trash fee would increase by $3.50 per month, raising it from $10.50 to $14 per month starting in October. The fee was raised to $10.50 last year. At $14 per month, the city would no longer subsidize part of the trash fee, as it has previously done. The city used to pay half of the $14 fee, meaning residents paid $7 per month and the city paid $7.
Water and sewer rates are expected to go up in January 2017. Those rate increases have been delayed from January 2016. They are part of a study done about three years ago. (See a few previous stories here and here.)
The proposed budget this year includes funding for items suggested by the Budget and Finance Committee, which is chaired by Council member Kelly Callison and includes Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Smith and Council member Charlie Hensley. Among the items: Funding of a compensation study and a new accounting software system, an additional housing/code inspector, funding of a senior center design, and support of a proposed city/school approach to a joint capital improvements program, or CIP.
The city expects to need space for seniors to move out of the county-owned building on Emory Valley Road in about six months, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. The current city-county proposal is to have the administrative wing of Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks move out of the Civic Center and into the former Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic building on Badger Road; have the Senior Center move into the Civic Center; and have Anderson County General Sessions Court, Division II, move out of a private building on Bus Terminal Road and into the county-owned building on Emory Valley Road. Anderson County officials are studying the proposed courthouse move and haven’t approved it yet.
Here are some examples of the budget’s proposed spending for capital projects:
- roof and HVAC improvements—$500,000
- Municipal Building security upgrades and renovations—$100,000
- Civic Center/Senior Center remodel—$100,000
- transportation and safety improvements—$541,200 grant
- Outdoor Pool filter replacement—$150,000
- Recreation Facility/ADA improvements—$50,000
- Main Street Oak Ridge public infrastructure—$1 million
- eight rowing lane—$585,000
Council hasn’t approved the proposed budget yet, and Council members could make changes to it. The City Council will consider the budget on first reading on June 6, and members will consider it on second and final reading on June 13.
In the meantime, the Budget and Finance Committee will meet in the Municipal Building at 4 p.m. today (Wednesday, June 1) to continue discussing the budget. That meeting is in the City Manager’s Conference Room.
It’s not clear yet if the City Council will consider giving Oak Ridge Schools an additional $538,048, as the school system and school board have requested.
Watson presented the proposed budget to City Council during a special meeting on Tuesday.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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