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City budget to be aired at meeting

Monday, April 7, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville’s top administrator is keeping quiet for now on whether he will propose any increases in taxes or fees for the new fiscal year that will start July 1.

City Manager Leon Towarnicki will present the fiscal 2015 budget proposal when Martinsville City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.

As of Friday, he and other city officials were going through the spending plan “with a fine-tooth comb, making sure the numbers are as accurate as they can be,” he said.

In preparing the budget, Towarnicki said, “our goal has been to continue or enhance the level of services being provided” to city residents as well as to provide “as much (money) as we can” for schools and capital projects and minimize the amount of reserve funds used to balance the budget.

Reserve funds have been used for that purpose in that past few years.

Towarnicki declined to comment before the meeting on whether those efforts will mean higher taxes or fees.

City finances remain tight.

“Basically, it’s the same situation as last year,” Towarnicki said. Resources are limited as the city’s expenses keep rising, he said.

But those increases seem not to be going up as much as they did in the past, he noted.

The failure of the General Assembly to approve a state budget has made it a little harder for city officials to prepare a budget this year, Towarnicki said.

“We’ve had to make some assumptions” as to how much state funding the city will get in fiscal 2015, he said.

The city’s general fund budget runs about $30 million annually. Although he did not have exact figures, Towarnicki said state and federal funding accounts for about 27 percent — or about $8 million — of that. Federal funds make up “a very small component,” he said, with state funds comprising the rest.

The proposed budget is only a recommendation. Towarnicki said the council members will make changes they want in the spending plan before approving it. They could increase or decrease any tax or fee increases that are proposed or nix them altogether.

After Towarnicki’s budget presentation, the council will consider setting a public hearing on the proposal for May 13. The council then would consider adopting the budget on first reading.

The council has scheduled a budget work session for 6-9 p.m. Thursday. Budget needs for the city schools and city funding for agencies outside city government will be discussed.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also will consider scheduling budget work sessions for 6-9 p.m. April 10, April 23 and April 24.

Also at that meeting, the Martinsville Police Department will present its annual “Citizen of the Year” Award.

According to a report in the council’s agenda packet, the award goes to a local resident who has made “outstanding contributions to the community,” is of good moral character and has a good attitude toward law enforcement.

Other agenda items will include:

• Hearing an update on activities of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

• Considering a resolution urging the General Assembly to accelerate budget deliberations and adopt a state budget.

• Hearing business from the floor, and

• Considering routine-type budget amendments.

At 6 p.m., the council will tour the New College Institute building under construction on the Baldwin Block before going to the municipal building.

The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the city housing office on Fourth Street for a Westside neighborhood meeting.

At 5:30 p.m. that day, council members will tour the neighborhood in a van to observe the conditions of properties there.


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