Note: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. June 16.
The Oak Ridge City Council approved a budget on Monday that does not include a property tax rate increase, but it does include more money for schools. The budget anticipates increases in the trash fee and water and sewer rates.
It was the second and final vote on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The first vote, or reading, was Monday, June 6.
The property tax rate will stay at $2.52 per $100 of assessed value. It’s the ninth year in a row without a property tax rate increase by the city, although the tax rate had to be adjusted last year after five-year reappraisals.
The budget, which has about $22.8 million in the general fund, includes a 3 percent pay adjustment that will move municipal 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 is expected to increase by $3.50 per month, going 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 6 percent 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 budget includes an additional $538,048 requested by Oak Ridge Schools.
The budget ordinance passed 6-1 in both readings this month. Council member Trina Baughn cast the only “no” vote each time.
The school budget, which was approved by the Oak Ridge Board of Education in May, also includes 3 percent salary increases.
The extra $538,048 the school board requested from the city this year is a 3.6 percent increase in municipal funding for the schools. But officials said the extra $538,000 money is for one-time, non-recurring expenses, meaning education officials shouldn’t expect it in their budget next year as part of the so-called “maintenance of effort,” a level of funding that can’t be reduced.
The concept of giving the extra money to the schools for one-time expenses has been approved by state education officials, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said.
Most of the extra money for the schools will be used for a one-time payment of $425,000 on a four-year lease on infrastructure and technology for a program that provides convertible laptops to students. The other $113,000 or so will be used for underground piping at Oak Ridge High School, lockers and elevators at Jefferson Middle School, and a road at Robertsville Middle School, Watson said.
The Oak Ridge Board of Education had a special meeting Monday before the City Council meeting. During its special meeting, the school board approved a joint resolution for the $538,048 worth of one-time spending.
After the BOE approved the joint resolution, Council approved it in a 6-1 vote that same night. Baughn cast the only “no” vote. She questioned whether the preliminary approval of the one-time spending by a state official was sufficient.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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