WASHINGTON CITY — With a bevy of infrastructure projects planned to help accommodate an ever-growing population, the Washington City 2021-22 budget is the largest the city has seen to date.
Coming in at nearly $100 million overall, city officials credited the growth for the jump in projected revenue, which is estimated to be $19 million over last year.
“The biggest reason for the jump in the budget is the increased growth we’re seeing,” Washington City Manager Jeremy Redd said. “The largest increase is in capital projects to fund growth.”
While other cities across the county may have felt the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic more than others due to closing down, Redd said that wasn’t the case for cities in Washington County as efforts were made to remain open and inviting to visitors.
One example the city manager gave was Washington City not shutting down its golf course, but rather adapting to recommended safety regulations from the state and carrying on from there.
“We didn’t see the economic downturn others did,” Redd said.
Capital projects – which are primarily funded through impact fees collected from new development – make up an estimated $37.5 million of the overall budget. Projects being funded for the year are either new or continuing ones that are also a part of the city’s five-year capital projects plan.
The capital project’s budget for the coming year was originally $43.5 million, bringing it to over $103 million overall. However, the City Council decided to save $6 million from the budget that would have gone toward the city’s pending bike and skate park this year, defering it to 2022.
These projects include many under the categories of leisure service, power, sewer, stormwater, streets and water.
The Canal Trail and the city’s dog park expansion come in at $3 million and $300,000 respectively for leisure services. A shop for parks, maintenance and cemetery use is also being built for $1.5 million.
For streets, big-ticket items include work being done in the area of 3650 South that include a new traffic signal, road extension and the connection to the Southern Parkway. Together, these projects run about $2.8 million.
“That’s a really big street project for this year,” Redd said.
Additional road projects being funded include the widening of Buena Vista Boulevard at $1.5 million, and a new traffic signal on Washington Fields Road for $400,000.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure to handle the growth that’s we’re seeing,” Redd said.
According to the proposed budget’s executive briefing document, Washington City’s population has averaged a steady 5% in growth per year. According to the U.S. Census, Washington City had an estimated population of nearly 29,200 people in July 2019.
The issuance of residential building permits is expecting to continue with some potential slowdown. Fiscal year 2021 is estimated to end with over 860 residential permits issued, while the tentative projections for 2022 and predicting around 650 permits issued.
The city’s general budget, which is largely used to fund city services such as public safety, parks and recreation, land development and city administration, is projected to be around $25.6 million. Over half of the general fund goes to the city’s public safety services.
A large contributor to the revenue found in the general fund comes from the sales and property tax the city collects. The proposed budget is projected to see a 5.7% and 4.8% increase in sales and property taxes respectively over last year.
“I think the reason people are interested in the general fund is because it contains their tax dollars,” Redd said.
The remainder of the budget is made up of the city’s enterprise funds, which are sometimes referred to as proprietary funds. These funds are dedicated to city departments that can be thought of as being run in a businesslike manner, such as the water and power departments.
Other city funds include special revenue, debt services and internal services.
The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the proposed 2021-22 budget on May 26 during a council meeting set for 6 p.m.
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