Ashland proposes two-year budget

The city of Ashland has proposed a $200.6 million, two-year budget that keeps city property tax rates flat but increases electric, water and sewer rates.

The Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee will hear an overview of the budget as well as presentations from the Parks and Recreation Department and the Police Department at a meeting that starts at 6 p.m. today in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

It kicks off a series of spring meetings to review and ultimately approve a final budget.

This is the first time Ashland has tried biennial budgeting. Budgets were previously prepared, scrutinized and adopted annually and hovered around $100 million per year.

Under the proposed budget, electric rates would rise 5.3 percent in the coming fiscal year while water and sewer rates would each increase by 9 percent.

Keeping the city property tax rate flat at $4.20 per $1,000 in assessed value would cost the owner of a home assessed at $245,000 — the median in Ashland — $1,029 annually.

In a major budgeting shift, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department would no longer receive half of city property taxes.

The proposed budget gives $8.8 million to parks rather than the $9.4 million the department would receive from half of property taxes. However, that money is enough to fund all parks programs at current service levels and also includes $587,000 for maintenance projects, according to the budget document. It will result in a draw-down of the parks department's ending fund balance, though.

The elected Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission is fighting the budget changes, arguing that the parks department will lose its historical semi-independent status and the commission will lose control over how parks money is spent.

The proposed budget includes a number of additions that the Budget Committee may choose to approve or chop from the budget.

They include:

  • Adding a fire inspector at a cost of $63,583 in the first year and $67,000 in the second
  • Replacing a used fire truck with a new one at a two-year cost of $106,000
  • Adding a code compliance officer at a cost of $56,415 in the first year and $59,236 in the second
  • Spending $100,000 over two years for a downtown study.

The committee will also consider whether to approve using $100,000 in reserve funds to pay for a help center for homeless people and others in need.

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