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Roanoke Rapids City Manager Joseph Scherer said no tax rate increase is expected as budget preparations for the upcoming fiscal year begin.

He did tell city council this evening he anticipates “the upcoming 2019-2020 budget year will continue to be one of relatively flat revenue growth and a continuing need to control expenses to the utmost extent possible.”

Scherer said in his report to the panel, “I know of or anticipate expense increases in some of our obligations such as pension contributions, health insurance and loan debt service which will impact our budget preparation as well.”

He said, however, “We are not planning on recommending any increase in the city’s property tax rate, nor are we planning to utilize any undesignated funds to balance the budget.”

Major capital purchases will probably be “very limited in next year’s budget.”

The city plans to maintain employee monetary and health benefits to the fullest extent possible. “As most services offered by the city are labor intensive and demands for our services do not typically fluctuate in response to economic cycles, we are not planning any employee layoffs as well.”

With certain exceptions, Scherer said — expenses which are beyond the control of departments —  “We anticipate departmental operating budgets to either remain at or below current levels.”

While the city has been the recipient of some increased commercial development over the past year, Scherer said, “We are being prudent by not preparing a budget dependent on a large increase of ad valorem revenue from this development. Retail sales amounts have also increased in the past year but, again, not enough for us to plan for a large jump in revenue.”

The city “will look hard at making our existing programs more efficient. In addition, the city’s budget process is structured to allocate our limited financial resources rationally and avoid hasty decisions that could have a major negative impact in future years.”

City Finance Director Leigh Etheridge in her report also advised caution as the current fiscal year nears its end. “Our last material allotment of ad valorem tax revenue has been recognized this reporting month … After this time period we must review and watch our expenditures very closely in order to end the year with a favorable revenue to expenditure variance; therefore, not incurring a loss on operations at June 30.”

Said Etheridge: “The city still has debt service requirements upcoming for the Series 2017A and 2017B loan repayments. We all have to be mindful with day-to-day expenditures going into the fourth quarter to remain favorable to budget as we end the fiscal year. This is the time of the fiscal year where we need to decrease our spending levels.”

Budget calendar

April 5: Department drafts due

Week of April 15: Draft reviews

April 30: Provide draft budget to council for review

May 7 at 3 p.m.: Budget work session with police, fire and planning departments

May 9 at 5:15 p.m.: Budget work session with public works, parks and recreation, general administration, human resources and Main Street

Week of May 13: Additional work sessions if needed

May 21: Presentation of recommended budget and budget message to council

June 4: Public hearing on budget

June 18: 2019-20 budget ordinance presented to council for final review and adoption