With Salem experiencing the best economic conditions in years, City Manager Kevin Boggess presented a $77.7 million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
It includes the next phase of the city’s pay raise plan for employees, along with $1 million earmarked for capital purchases.
No property tax increase is proposed to balance the budget. Currently, the rate is $1.18 per $100 of assessed value. Annual reassessments would vary, however.
The budget was distributed to the public and media after the March 26 council meeting. It reflects a projected revenue rise of 3.3 percent, which is the biggest growth Salem has seen since before the Recession.
“A 3.3 percent increase in revenue is good,” said Councilman James Martin. It shows overall economic health.”
Mount for capital purchases is twice what council approved for the current fiscal year.
Salem would borrow up to $5 million to pay for the largest capital expenses, which include replacing the city’s radio communication system. That is estimated to cost $3 million.
One of the best things about the new radios is they would operate on the same frequency which Roanoke County and other neighboring jurisdictions use, which Boggess pointed out would make it easier for emergency responders to coordinate their actions.
The largest expenditures in the general fund recommended by the city manager for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, are:
- $22.9 million for schools – which is subject to change after the Virginia General Assembly adopts a final education budget. State funds account for a large base for Salem Schools. The proposed amount reflects a $706,313 increase over last year’s local budget.
- $16.3 million for public safety;
- $10.03 million for public works;
- $6.2 million for general government expenditures;
- $5.2 million for parks, recreation and culture;
- $3.2 million for health and welfare, and
- $2.1 million for judicial administration.
There is also $8.4 budgeted for non-departmental expenses.
Employee raises for the most recent approved round in March are included, as is almost $232,000 to finance another round of employee raises July 1. The adjustments are based on years of service and a .025 percent provided for each year an employee has been in the current position. It caps at eight years.
The largest source of revenue is $25.7 million from real estate property taxes, an increase of almost $1 million over the 2017-18 adopted budget.
Other recent revenue sources are $1.2 million in lodging taxes and $4.78 million in meals taxes, as well as a slight increase in expected revenue from business license tax to $5.4 million.
Work sessions on the budget will be scheduled in the next couple of weeks. The public hearing on the budget is April 23 in Salem City Council Chambers.
In other matters before council on March 26 was a report by Community Planner Ben Tripp about the block grant that would pay go for a family activity center, community space for the library and other aspects of downtown development.
Vice Chairman Bill Jones told Tripp, “We appreciate your hard work on the Downtown Plan.”
And Tripp responded, “We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s involvement.”