By Crystal Burns
In a special called meeting July 15, the Bradford Board of Aldermen approved the first reading of the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year budget, which includes increases to the property tax, water and sewer rates.
Dana Deem, a Municipal Task Advisory Service representative, and Joey Geter, a CPA and Certified Municipal Financial Officer (CMFO) with Cowart Reese Sargent, CPAs, met recently with the mayor, board finance committee and department heads to help create the budget.
Mayor Ray Arnold said Deem recommended the board increase the property tax rate from $1.63 per $100 of assessed value to $1.77. During the recent state re-certification process, Bradford’s tax rate was assessed at $1.6187 per $100 of assessed value.
Alderman Richard Hollinshead said raising taxes to $1.77 would bring the city out of the red and into the black. He said the city had been running a deficit and dipping into its reserves to cover the overages. Hollinshead said the new rate should keep the city safe.
“It ain’t going up much, but we can’t sit around here and lose money,” Arnold said. “You can’t stay in the hole.”
Water rates will increase 50 cents and sewer rates from 70% of a customer’s water bill to 80% for a total increase of $2.59 per the minimum.
Public Works Director JD Dethloff said the increases should cover the city for two or three more years. The rates were last raised in 2015, he said.
“I believe after our meeting the other night, it’s a safe place to be for right now,” Dethloff said.
Geter said the increases have nothing to do with lack of oversight but inflation.
“The department heads are doing a good job of following the budget and being good stewards of taxpayer money,” he said. “It just has to be done.”
The budget also includes a $1 per hour raise for all employees. Arnold said the increase is crucial to retaining good employees.
“We don’t want to lose what we’ve got,” Arnold said. “We’ll look again next year and top them out at what we think they need to be topped out.”
The board also approved the first reading of an ordinance that states sprinklers are no longer required in one- or two-story dwellings with two-hour firewalls. The state legislature recently approved the change.
Bradford will hold a special called meeting Monday, July 29 at 6 p.m. in City Hall for the second readings of the budget and the sprinklers ordinance.
Correction – At its July 1 meeting, the board discussed appointing City Clerk Jenny Dowland as City Recorder. Dowland said would take on the role but is not interested in getting her certification as a CMFO. The newspaper article published July 9 said Dowland wasn’t interested in the city recorder position. We regret the error.