La Plata council discusses general budget for FY2017
Looks to keep taxes the same
The La Plata Town Council met during the month of April to discuss the development of the Town’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget including an estimate of proposed revenues and future expenditures for the single fiscal year.
On April 19, the town’s FY2017 budget development general fund was presented in a PowerPoint presentation by Town Treasurer Robert Oliphant. The town council was presented with the budget’s general fund expenditures, which is a total of $6,847,138.
General fund revenues include financial resources and operating services of the town property taxes, licenses, permits, service charges, intergovernmental revenues, expenditures for administrative support services, law enforcement, public works and parks and recreation.
“It’s essentially the same general budget as it was last year,” Oilphant said.
However, during the budget development presentation, the council noticed a difference in various line items within the budget, specifically fuel purchases within certain departments.
Town Manager Daniel Mears explained that some line items, especially in fuel purchases, were included in the FY2016 budget. However those line items have nothing included for FY2017 because it was only a one time expense for that particular fiscal year.
According to Oliphant’s budget presentation to the council, there is also prior debt payment of $104,000 included annually so the town staff recommended that the town council pay off a remaining $1.4 million balance.
“The interest on that debt is over 4 percent,” Mears said. “Paying that off would save the town approximately $373,000 over the remaining life of the debt.”
“Revenues are still below our stated requirements so the council has to be diligent in setting priorities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. Paying off one of our outstanding loans makes sense as it will save the town a considerable amount of money in fees and interest over the life of the loan,” said Mayor Roy G. Hale.
On April 26, the council met to continue discussing the general funds in addition to the town’s enterprise funds, specifically sanitation and utility funds, within the FY2017 budget.
Oliphant and Mears also explained that the town is in its second year of the three year property tax assessment cycle and the real estate property tax is La Plata’s largest general fund revenue source, representing 59 percent of new revenue. The council plans to have the real estate property tax rate remain the same.
Mears said the town has maintained the tax rate on real property at $0.32 per $100 of assessed value since 2001, and the budget for FY2017 recommends maintaining that.
“With so many jurisdictions increasing taxes over the years, we are proud that we have been able to hold our rate constant since 2001. This accomplishment has been very difficult at times but it demonstrates that raising taxes is always our last option not our first option. We are united in the intent to hold the same rate for the fiscal year commencing July 1, 2016. If we receive the tax differential from the Charles County Commissioners as requested for fiscal year 2017 of $0.135, the effective tax rate for La Plata residents will become $0.185. A bottom line that many communities would be hard pressed to match,” Hale said.
“The tax differential that the Charles County commissioners fund is where they reduce our town’s taxes for the services that the Town of La Plata provides and the county doesn’t have to provide for. Our effective tax rate is less than $0.19 so I think its important for everyone to know that. Really, $0.32 is modest looking around at other towns throughout the state and we are blessed that the county does recognize what we contribute,” said Councilman Joseph Norris.
The council members said they will remain diligent in ensuring that all of the associated costs of basic services and savings in utility pricing is reasonable and applicable to the high quality of services that local residents receive.
The Town of La Plata will host a public hearing about the FY2017 budget on Tuesday, May 17. The Town Council will consider adoption of the budget on Tuesday, May 24.