06/02/09 — Walnut Creek avoids tax hike, but not cuts

View Archive

Walnut Creek avoids tax hike, but not cuts

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 2, 2009 1:46 PM

Walnut Creek officials considered an increase of 4 to 8 cents, but are expected to maintain the village's 36 cents per $100 value property tax rate in their 2009-10 budget. However, Village Administrator Lou Cook warned that maintaining that rate does mean there will have to be some significant cuts made.

"We made some pretty drastic cuts this year," he said.

In total, the village's budget is expected to be about $1.16 million -- $839,000 general fund, $324,00 utility fund.

Probably the hardest hit area of the general fund is the building and grounds budget, which is scheduled to drop more than $30,000.

"The main decrease we have is no major purchases forecasted for this year," Cook said.

And while there were no plans for any new purchases, he continued, that also means no money for replacement purchases either.

"We're just going to have to make what we have last and hope nothing breaks," he said.

Also cut out of the budget is a planned $10,000 playground renovation and expansion.

"We just won't do that now, at least not this year," he said. "According to our surveys, a lot of residents wanted to see it improved, but we're going to have to kick that can down the road a little bit."

Other cuts include less money for entrance improvements and less spending at the compost facility, which has undergone a series of changes in recent months.

But, Cook said, the utility fund is where most of the budget changes are taking place.

"The utility fund is really the big news here," he said. "Our utility rates have been fairly constant the last five or so years since I've been here."

Now, though, that's changing.

The water rate is expected to go from 25 cents to 30 cents per 100 gallons used.

"And that's just barely keeping us above water," he said.

The problem, he explained, is that in case of emergencies the village purchases water from Wayne Water Districts and the current rate is not enough to afford that.

But, Cook continued, the even bigger news is the change in sewer rates.

Currently residents pay a flat rate of $180 per quarter.

Under the budget, residents would pay $1.50 per every 100 gallons of water used, with a minimum charge of $150 per quarter -- still "really very cheap," he said.

He explained that the board felt the $180 flat rate "really wasn't fair" because some people were using less, while others were using more.

So, he said, "we're going to base our sewer rate on how much water you use."

That means, approximately half of the village will pay less than the current $180 rate, while about half will pay more.

The Walnut Creek Country Club -- the only commercial user in the village -- also will see its rate go from $1,750 per quarter to $2,000.

"It's not designed to make us a lot of money, but it is designed to help pay the bills and help make some sewer line repairs and lift station repairs that are overdue," Cook said.

But one of his biggest concerns with the budget, he said, is the fact there is no cost-of-living adjustment for village employees. There also will be no additional employees hired.

"I'm disappointed about that. According to the League of Municipalities, most municipalities are giving at least a cost-of-living increase, but it's just not possible. Everybody's got to suffer a little," Cook said.

The council is expected to vote on the budget at 7:30 p.m., June 24. Until then it is available for public review.

Cook said he expects it pass "as presented."

In other news, the village council and planning board continued their work on the village's 10-year road map earlier this month, with planning board and council members each assigned to research and develop proposals for specific areas, including lighting, speed limits, property standards, the compost center and communication.

"It's motion. It's moving along," Cook said.