Assorted revenue hikes being eyed in Windsor

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

WINDSOR — Windsor residents could be facing an increase in the water rate, cigarette tax and meals tax in order to balance the town’s fiscal 2019 budget. 

Windsor Town Manager Michael Stallings laid out the proposed increases April 24 at a Town Council work session.

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The proposed $1.7 million fiscal 2019 operating budget includes a 100 percent increase on the cigarette tax, from 25 to 30 cents a pack, and a 20 percent increase on the meals tax, from 5-6 percent.

The proposed $823,500 fiscal 2019 water fund budget proposes a 25-cent increase on the water rate, from $7.25 to $7.50 per 1,000 gallons. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Combined, those increases would result in an additional $70,000 in revenue, said Stallings. 

There are no proposed increases to the real estate tax rate, which currently stands at 10 cents per $100 in value.  

The proposed budget also does not call for any draws on the town’s reserves, said Stallings.

The town’s meals tax is the town’s biggest revenue generator, with an estimated revenue of $360,000 for fiscal 2019, surpassing real estate tax revenues, which is expected to bring in $192,000, said Stallings in an April 25 email.   

Other budget highlights include a proposed 2.5 percent, or $1,000 pay raise, whichever is greater, for town employees, said Stallings, adding that the budget calls for a $5,000 salary hike for Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle, who recently completed his associate’s degree.  

The water rate hike would push the average residential bill from $72.50 to $75 every two months — an increase of $2.50, said Stallings. The minimum water bill, currently at $25.38 would rise to $26.25 — an increase of 87 cents, said Stallings.

Stallings said the town water rate service does not include additional fees, such as meter reading and others that are often charged by other localities and is not reflected in the base usage rate. 

As a result, “we’re not as high as we look like we are,” said Stallings of the town’s water usage rate. 

In addition to its usage rate of $10.16 per 1,000 gallons, Isle of Wight imposes a service charge based on meter size. For example, meters up to and including ¾-inch costs $33.14 every two months. In addition to a water usage rate of $5.68 per 1,000 gallons, Smithfield residents are charged a service fee of $8.95 per household every two months through the Hampton Roads Utility Billing Service. 

That fee is dedicated to pay the town’s water debt service that was implemented when Smithfield’s reverse osmosis plant was built, said Smithfield Town Treasurer Ellen Minga.

The water rate hike would add an additional $20,000 to Windsor’s water fund and go toward paying for a maintenance contract on the town’s wells, said Stallings. 

The new maintenance contract is estimated to cost about $13,000 a year, he said. 

Stallings also suggested an increase to the cost of cutting on water after hours for residents who had it cut-off for not paying their bills.

The town currently charges $30 to have a town employee go out after 4 p.m. on weekdays to turn the water back on at a residence, said Stallings, adding that cut-off fee is not charged to residents for water leaks. 

Stallings proposed that the town increase that charge to $75. 

The most expensive town department is the police department at $557,760, followed by general government at $408,388 and public works at $264,781. 

One subject that generated a bit of conversation, however, was porta-potties.

Stallings told the Town Council that it is cheaper for the town to leave the porta-potties in place all summer rather than to have them picked up and delivered for each concert. 

Stallings said the cost of the porta-potties was more than the cost of hiring the bands for the concerts and Fourth of July. 

Council member Patty Flemming said she favored permanent public restrooms, while council member Macon Edwards was concerned that someone would be assaulted in one of the porta-potties. 

Stallings said that Smithfield has porta-potties permanently planted at Windsor Castle Park and it’s not a problem. 

Council member Durwood Scott suggested the town buy its own used porta-potties rather than renting them every year. 

The new Windsor Town Center will have a budget of $50,000, with $25,000 from Isle of Wight County and $25,000 from the town’s reserves, said Stallings. 

The money will pay for professional services, utilities and staffing. The part-time staff would be in addition to the staff being provided by Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation, said Stallings. 

Stallings said Isle of Wight may entertain the idea of providing more long-term funding, but if not, the town could obtain added revenues by garnishing a portion of the fees the county charges for activities. 

Stallings said the Town Council may want to consider instituting a lodging tax in anticipation of future Air BnBs or even a hotel/motel in town. 

The proposed fiscal 2019 budget was formally presented to the Town Council on May 1.  {/mprestriction}