Westminster city budget discussions upcoming

Those who wish to have their voices heard regarding next year’s Westminster city budget will have a chance at upcoming Mayor and Common Council meetings.

The budget will include big expenditures for a sewer project. Property tax rates will remain the same as they have in previous years, with a rate of 56 cents per $100 of assessed value for homeowners. City Administrator Barbara Matthews said this would be the sixth consecutive year of no change.


A water rate increase is expected in the coming year following a rate study.

City staff used a placeholder of 5 percent increase when creating the budget as they wait for the results of the study, which is expected to finish before the budget is finalized.

Current water rates sit at $3.92 per thousand gallons for Tier one sized meters and $5.29 for Tier two.

No increase in sewer rates is expected.

Public hearings will be held on April 9 and April 23 for citizens to comment on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019. The council is scheduled to adopt the budget at their May 14 meeting.

The total proposed budget is $72.24 million, a decrease from the $74.47 million budgeted for FY2018.

The total expected revenue is $69.57 million. The variance will be made up for with money from the general fund reserve and the capital project fund reserve, Matthews said as she led a presentation regarding the proposed budget Monday, March 26. The budget is broken into the general fund, water fund, sewer fund, fiber fund and capital projects fund.

In the coming year, the sewer fund makes up the largest slice of the pie, budgeted for $35.3 million. This comes from the planned Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) project, budgeted at $26.72 million, which will require extensive renovations to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Because the city is located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the state and the Environmental Protection agency requires them to meet standards for removing pollutants that can run into the Bay from wastewater.

“We do a good job removing nitrogen now, but the standards have increased,” Councilwoman Mona Becker explained in a later interview.

She anticipated that residents would have questions about the project because of its large price tag.

The project has been in planning stages for more than a decade, and has been pushed back because of its complexity and the extent of the renovations required.

“At each step along the way we found that we had to do more,” Council President Robert Wack said.

Some buildings at the wastewater treatment plant will remain the same, but “the guts of the operation are being completely changed and renovated,” he said.


Starting this year, the renovations will be a multi-year project.

The general fund is budgeted to take in $16.05 million in revenue versus $15.78 million in expenditures alongside some transfer to the capital projects and fiber funds.

Capital projects were budgeted for $6.99 million in expenditures with $2.89 million in expected revenues. The variance will be made up by fund reserves and a transfer from the general fund.

Some of the expenditures will go toward the renovation of the former BB&T building at 45 W. Main Street, for which Mayor Joe Dominick signed the purchase contract this week.

“The next step is for the city to pay the earnest deposit required by the contract, which will be followed by the bank’s execution/signatory. By contract, the City has a 60-day due diligence period before the parties would go to settlement on the property,” Matthews wrote in a later email.

During last Monday’s presentation, it was noted that no funding is currently earmarked for significant change to the Wakefield Valley property, which is included in a goal in the council’s most recent strategic plan.

The fiber fund is expected to see $8.18 million in revenues and the same in expenditures. Wack said it is exciting that the city will see the completion of the fiber project in the coming year.

Also of note was a compensation and classification study of city staff which took place this year. Wack said this study, which was last done in 2006, is a complex look at how many staff are in what positions and how much they are getting paid. The goal is to see how Westminster compares to other jurisdictions, “just to make sure that we are staying competitive,” he said.

Results are expected to be discussed at the April 9 meeting.

The proposed budget will be made available on the city’s website