The Wilmore City Council approved next year’s budget Monday night with one stipulation — discussions will continue in an effort not to raise property taxes.
The approved budget passed 3-1 and assumes the council will approve a 4-percent property-tax increase in late August or September.
The property-tax increase adds about $25,000 to the budget; if the council decides not to increase taxes, it will have to find the revenue somewhere else and amend the approved budget.
Not all council members are satisfied that a tax increase is the right way to balance the budget, and the issue endangered its passing. At the last council meeting, the first reading of the proposed budget passed 3-2, as councilmen Jeff James and Lynn Cooper voted “no” and Leonard Fitch abstained in his role as mayor pro tem.
Monday night, Fitch again stood as mayor pro tem as Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater was out as well as councilman Jeff Baier. Fitch would have been the deciding vote if history had repeated, but James changed his vote to “yes,” with only Cooper voting “no.”
James deferred to councilman Jim Brumfield’s 20-plus years of experience, stating that as long as the discussion was still open and the 4-percent property tax increase was not “set in stone,” then he was fine with passing the budget.
Passing the balanced budget also included several ordinances needed to make it work — a 4-percent water- and sewer-fee increase and a Kentucky River Authority (KRA) fee increase of 4 cents per 1,000 gallons of water — a 50-percent fee increase.
The three ordinances increasing the water and waste-water rates of Wilmore and the water rates of High Bridge and the southeast county removed the fourth pricing tier that gave a discount to customers with the highest usage. The southeast area includes Drake Lane, Jessamine Station Road, Grows Mill Lane, Bethel Road, Figg Lane and Handys Bend Road.
Wilmore rates will be increased by a solid 4 percent while High Bridge and the southeast county’s rates will be increased between 2 and 3 percent, depending on the tier. Utilities director Dave Carlstedt told that council this was because High Bridge’s and the southeast county’s rates were already higher than Wilmore’s.
The rates cut off at consumers using any more than 5,000 gallons of water per month.
The fourth ordinance addressed the 4-percent increase of the KRA fees.
The KRA Tier I fee is currently 2.2 cents per thousand gallons of water withdrawn from the Kentucky River, and the KRA Tier II fee is 6 cents per thousand gallons. The new ordinance increases the rate charged by Wilmore for fees assessed by the KRA from 8.2 cents per thousand gallons to 12 cents, effective July 15.
The council suspended the rules in order to push all four ordnances from new business to a first reading and is expected to pass all of them at the next council meeting July 2.
The city council also voted 4-0 to renew Wilmore’s service with Delta Dental in a different plan that saves the city $2,300 but adds a $50 deductible to employees on the plan.
Council Jim Brumfield motioned for the new plan but stated the savings should go to offset the $50 deductible for the 29 Wilmore employees.
“Seems only fair,” Brumfield said, referring to the fact that there were no raises this year in the new budget for city employees. Even though it sounds like a “meager” amount, the city should at least offset the cost, he said.
If all employees took advantage of the $50 deducible offset, or $1,450, the city still saves $850 in fiscal-year 2012-’13.