City Council scuppers meal tax hike, tells school system to ‘deal with it’ | Winchester star

WINCHESTER — Two weeks after requesting a budget scenario for fiscal year 2023 that included a 0.5% increase in Winchester’s meal tax rate, City Council unanimously decided not to incorporate an increase in taxes in its new operating budget.

“I can’t support the meal tax increase because we’re seeing enough revenue from other taxes,” Councilor Richard Bell said at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

The proposed FY23 operating budget, which will be subject to a public hearing and final vote at the next board meeting on May 24, totals $100,675,000, an increase of $7,650 $000 compared to the adopted budget for fiscal year 2022 of $93,025,000.

The proposed spending plan includes a 4% cost-of-living salary increase for city employees, plus an additional 1% to 2% in performance-based merit pay.

It also includes $32 million for Winchester Public Schoolswhich is $900,000 less than the school board requested, but $1 million more than the city appropriated in FY22. Hoffman said at the board meeting on April 26 that the $32 million may not be enough for the school system to fully fund its proposed 7% cost-of-living salary increases for school staff, but the school board would ultimately be responsible determine how to spend the allowance.

At the council meeting two weeks ago, Councilor Les Veach said he would not support a 7% pay rise for school employees unless city staff also received a 7% increase, rather than the 5% to 6% increases in cost of living and merit pay. proposed in Hoffman’s original budget proposal. This led the council to ask Hoffman to prepare a second potential FY23 budget that included a 0.5% increase in the city’s 6% dining tax, a move aimed at generating enough revenue. to give city workers a 6% pay raise and increase the school allowance. at $32.5 million.

On Tuesday night, the board unanimously rejected the new budget scenario and instead suggested the school board adjust its own proposed $105 million budget. Veach said he fully supports increasing salaries for school employees, but noted that the board’s proposed budget for FY23, which begins July 1, includes a salary increase for school employees. administrators which is twice as high as the salary increases for teachers.

“If I’m reading it right, it’s a little awkward,” Veach said. “The admin gets 14.99%, but the instruction only gets a 6.34% increase.”

Winchester Public Schools has not publicly released a line item breakdown of its proposed FY23 budget, but after Tuesday night’s board meeting, Veach shared a page from the school board’s proposed budget that lists the suggested expenses from the school’s operating fund. It shows a proposed 14.99% increase in Administration, Attendance and Health, which Veach says includes administrative salaries, and a 6.34% increase in Instruction, which includes teacher salaries.

Under the school board’s proposed budget, funding for the administrative, attendance, and health position would increase by $527,472 from $3,517,735 in FY22, and the instructional position would increase by $2,927,661 compared to the amount of $46,154,140 for fiscal year 22. Additional funding from state and federal sources would increase the instruction line amount by an additional $11,293,007, representing an increase total of 8.23% compared to financial year 22.

After hearing this information, the council quickly agreed to the suggestion that people pay a higher meal tax to provide more money for the salary increases offered by the school system. Mayor David Smith said the school board would have to “make do” with the $32 million the board plans to appropriate, and added that he wants to see “more balance” in the school’s budget. school to ensure that the percentage of salary increases for school administrators does not exceed the percentage granted to teachers.

Councilman Corey Sullivan noted that the board, on average, has increased school funding by about $500,000 a year over the past decade, so the $1 million increase the city plans to appropriate for exercise 23 is generous. He suggested creating a funding formula that can be used each year so that the school board knows in advance the approximate amount of funding to expect from the city council, and that the board is not surprised by requests for funding higher than planned schools.

Sullivan said he hopes the school board would be willing to create a funding formula, but councilors can do it even if schools object because the city council is the body that ultimately controls. the allocation of taxpayers’ money.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Smith said.

In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting, City Council:

  • Unanimously approved a city code amendment that will increase the cost of building permits by 30% over the next two fiscal years.
  • Unanimously approved an update to the Winchester Sidewalk Master Plan, which identifies areas of the city where sidewalks are to be installed or repaired within the next three to five years.
  • Approved an update to a March 22 resolution that authorizes the city to sell $7,560,000 in revenue bonds to fund various utility projects. The original resolution capped the amount of interest the board would pay to bond investors at 4%. The amended resolution increases the maximum amount of interest to 6% due to rising interest rates across the country.
  • Held a first reading of a draft ordinance amendment targeting shops and restaurants in primary and secondary areas of downtown Winchester that have buildings that do not fill the full width of their lots. The amendment would allow these businesses to serve customers on sections of public sidewalk equal to the width of their lots. The current amendment limits the amount of usable sidewalk space to the width of the buildings on those lots.
  • Held a first reading of a proposed amendment to the ordinance that would allow certain city notices to be sent to residents and businesses by first class mail rather than registered or certified mail.
  • Held a first reading of a draft order that would authorize updated allocations in Winchester’s FY22 budget.
  • Met in executive session for 37 minutes to seek legal advice on a matter involving the federal government Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets rules for wages, overtime pay and workplace practices. No further information was provided on the item, which was added to council’s agenda at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, and no action was taken following the closed-door discussions.

Mayor and Council Chairman David Smith, Vice-Chairman Kim Herbstritt, Vice-Mayor John Hill and Members Les Veach, Phillip Milstead, Mady Rodriguez, Evan Clark, Richard Bell and Corey Sullivan attended the City Council meeting Tuesday evening at Rouss Town Hall.

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