ON COUNCIL’S VOTE TO INCREASE UTILITIES RATE
Submitted by Gren Whitman
Because of concerns raised by a local bank regarding Rock Hall’s critically weak financial status, the Town Manager advised the Town Council on December 3 to increase the utilities rate by 30% immediately.
The Council voted to do so, and will conduct a public hearing ASAP.
If enacted, a 30% rate increase will add an estimated +/- $200,000 to the Town coffers over the next four quarters.
The $200,000 will be likely be spent on such immediate needs as pumps, filters, bar screen, etc.; the Town Manager agreed to provide the Council with a prioritized list of infrastructure needs, which he described as “pretty extensive.”
Once the Council OKs a rate increase, the budget for FY19 will need to be amended. This will be the opportunity for the public and Council to decide how to spend the additional $200,000 AND to decide how to reduce or eliminate non-essential, discretionary spending.
(On a related subject, according to the Town Manager, a USDA grant will be sought to repair the Municipal Building’s roof.)
IN MY OPINION, a utilities fee increase is regressive; an increase in the Town’s property tax would be more equitable for Town taxpayers, but a property tax increase cannot be enacted before the next budget cycle, which begins July 1.
ALSO IN MY OPINION, what the Mayor ought to do, but probably won’t, is scratch all his big spending plans for New Year’s Eve and instead start 2019 by belt tightening.
THANKS to Councilman Nesspor for inviting GRHBA to propose how to restructure the trams’ finances (raise fare, solicit advertising, ask for contributions from businesses, etc.) to reduce or eliminate the burden on taxpayers.
THANKS to Dave May (Osprey Capital) for donating $600 for Xmas decorating contest (with displays assisted by Town equipment not eligible for prizes).