City to start work on new budget

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


With the end of the calendar year coming at the end of the month, the City of Washington is waiting to receive information on the November financials and taxable valuations before the city department heads begin working on a proposed budget.

Washington City administrator Brent Hinson said the city is facing some ?challenges? this coming year with the goal of keeping the flat tax rate. He said the city has kept the exact same tax rate for six years, and he expects the tax rate to continue. The city has taken a policy of holding the tax rate flat and operating with the resources the taxes provide. Taxpayers can expect to pay the same rate, he said, but if the assessable valuation of the property has increased, the taxes will increase. He said that he expects the flat tax rate to continue.

?Our health insurance did go up a little bit so we have that to deal with,? Hinson said. ?The IPERS withholding rates are going up July 1, and that will be a little money out of the budget and out of the employees? paychecks.?

Hinson also said it is undetermined if a state policy to possibly removing commercial property tax backfill will impact the budget. He believes the city is positioned to be able to weather many financial crisis.

The city waits to receive the final November financial report so that it can have five full months of financials to base the budget on, Hinson explained.

?The tough part of budgeting is that starting in January, you are trying to budget for up to 18 months away,? Hinson said. ?We like to have the five months of data in the current fiscal year to help budget because otherwise you are almost budgeting for a longer period.?

He said the county is expected to provide the taxable valuations of the city by Dec. 31. Hinson said on Nov. 22, he had submitted Tax Increment Finance certifications to the county for the budgeting process well before the Dec. 1 deadline.

Budget work papers will soon be distributed to the department heads, who will have three or four weeks to return them. The proposed budget will be created for the council to begin deliberating. The budget is due to the state on March 15.

?The methodology hasn?t changed from past years,? Hinson said. ?We are trying to hold the tax rate level and bring a balanced, responsible budget to the council and they are going to have to figure out what to do from there.?

He said the projects and items included in the budget are based on previous guidance and direction from the council.