Proposed city budget includes 10% water fee increase

by | Mar 20, 2024 | ALLFFP, Fredericksburg, Government

The City of Fredericksburg’s FY 2025 recommended budget includes a 10% increase in water fees that would go into effect July 1. 

Councilor Jason Graham (Ward 1) argued that a graduated increase could be a viable alternative to increasing rates across the board.  

“I’m worried about raising rates on residents who may not be able to afford it, versus those who use hundreds of gallons solely for their front lawn, for instance,” Graham said during Tuesday’s work session, the first time councilors met publicly to discuss the proposed $126.7 million budget.  

At 5,000 gallons per two-month billing cycle, current rates include a $17.77 flat fee, an $18.10 water usage fee, a $28.39 sewer flat fee and a $36.10 sewer usage fee for a total of $100.36. 

The proposed 2025 rates, which also include a 5% sewer increase, would result in a total bill of $107.17 for the same usage. At 10,000 gallons per billing cycle, the jump would be more pronounced — from an estimated $154.56 currently to $164.99. 

Councilor Tim Duffy (Ward 3) broached the possibility of charging for residential trash pickup as an alternative source of revenue, “since it’s something we have to do,” he said. “Big shifts like [the 10% water increase] make me nervous.” 

Tuesday’s work session began with a moment of silence for the father of Vice Mayor Chuck Frye Jr., Chuck Frye Sr., who died last week at age 84. 

Director of Finance Robyn Shugart then outlined five “drivers” for the city’s recommended budget: Revenue, debt service, compensation, inflation and state revenue.  

Revenue includes the ongoing real estate reassessment process, which takes place every four years. The process is about 90% complete, said Shugart, and notice of a new equalized real estate tax rate will be mailed to property owners sometime in April.  

Shugart added that out of 38 cities in the state, Fredericksburg had the second-lowest real estate tax rate for 2022, the most recent year statistics were available.  

Inflation has affected lead time on many of the city’s major financed purchases, Shugart said, including the purchase of two new pumper trucks for the fire department.  

“We’re seeing up to 36 months lead time on some of our equipment,” she said. “This is very different than what we’re used to seeing.” 

The largest chunks of the city’s $126.7 million recommended budget include school operations ($32.66 million) and public safety ($29.9 million). Capital and debt and public works account for $17.2 million and $12.8 million, respectively. 

Of the $126.7 million figure, 90% will come from local revenue with 6% ($7.9 million) derived from state funds. Federal revenue makes up less than 1% of the city’s funding, Shugart said.  

City council will hold a second budget work session March 26 at 5:30 p.m., followed by its regular session at 7:30 p.m. The Fredericksburg City School Board is scheduled to hold a joint session with city council at 6 p.m. on April 2 at the Walker-Grant Center.  

The school board has scheduled a special meeting for March 29 at 8 a.m., at which time it plans to vote on Superintendent Marci Catlett’s proposed budget.

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