06/04/08 — Walnut Creek may raise taxes

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Walnut Creek may raise taxes

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on June 4, 2008 1:46 PM

WALNUT CREEK -- Walnut Creek residents likely will see a 4-cent increase on their property taxes and a water rate increase of 5 cents per 100 gallons for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Village officials have prepared a proposed budget, and the recommended tax rate rose from 36 cents per $100 valuation to 40 cents per $100 valuation.

Lou Cook, village administrator, said the increase in the tax rate is just something that is necessary to have an increase of recreation areas.

The village is currently in the middle of a survey process that allows residents to tell officials what they like about the village, what they don't and what is needed.

"Now I haven't been one of the ones looking over these surveys, the planning board has, but from what they tell me, recreation is high on a lot of people's lists," he said. "To keep recreation projects going, like the playground and other things, we have to increase taxes."

Cook said he didn't think residents would mind paying a few more cents to have more recreation areas available in the village limits.

But, if the village council decides to trim in order not to raise taxes, Cook said the recreation projects will likely be the first to be cut.

Cook said that he has been there for five years, and that the tax rate has remained at 36 cents.

Even at 40 cents, the rate is one of the lowest in the state. Of course, Cook admits, the property value in the village is much higher per parcel than most other cities, so the tax rate can be lower.

In comparison, Goldsboro -- less than 20 miles down the road -- charges 65 cents per $100 property valuation.

Cook said they have tried to hold off on increasing the tax rate for years, but the village is asked to "do more, cover more and trim excess from areas that are already picked to the bone." He feels the 4-cent increase would help alleviate some of the financial pressure weighing down on the village's back.

Cook also proposed a 5-cent water rate increase to help pay for an upcoming well project and to make up for loss of revenue from decreased usage because of the drought.

The newly annexed Links development will increase revenues somewhat with tap-on fees and subsequent water charges, Cook said, but it won't be as big of a boost needed to balance the utility fund budget.

The spending plan adds up to $931,010, and a large part of that -- $426,674 -- comes from administrative costs that include village manager, clerk, police and maintenance employee salaries with a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase; general insurance and bonds; telephone; postage; office supplies; employee benefits; donations to non-profit or community organizations and programs; and travel expenses for council members.

The expenditures also include $32,000 for electricity for service at town hall, at the wastewater pumping station and for all the exterior light poles throughout the village. More than $95,000 is also included for debt service for the town hall; $173,500 for services including fire, garbage, recycling, composting and mosquito control; and $55,000 for lake maintenance.

The village council will make a decision on the budget at the June 25 council meeting.