Woodstock residents will pay more for water after the City Council approved a new budget that includes a 3 percent hike in water and sewer rates.
The Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget passed 6-1 April 18, with outgoing Councilman RB Thompson the only dissenter.
The new water rates, which are estimated to add about $15 annually to an average household’s bill, will go into effect May 1, when the new budget year begins.
(An ordinance formally raising water and sewer rates, separate from the budget, was approved unanimously by the City Council at the same meeting.)
Overall, the FY 2017-18 budget is balanced, with revenues expected to increase by about 1 percent over last year’s budget, up to $32.6 million.
Expenditures are projected to total $32 million, a reduction of about 1 percent from last year’s budget.
The restoration of the city-owned Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House proved to be a contentious issue, with Thompson saying he thought the city was spending too much on the project while ignoring other needs downtown. The budget shows the city spending $430,000 on the Old Courthouse in the next fiscal year, funding for which comes from its Tax Increment Financing District.
“We should be, as a council, focusing on making our downtown even more attractive for potential businesses and for people to walk to,” he said. “… Every year we put it off and put it off, but we continue to put a lot of money into an area that’s not increasing tax value, and that’s our Courthouse. Even if we made that glorious, we would not benefit from the taxes. We own it.”
John Puzzo, a Woodstock resident, said the Old Courthouse is integral to the Square and worth the city’s investment.
“If you have a classic car and it’s going to hell and you decide that rather than letting it disintegrate, you’re going to fix it, and you start putting money into it — like we’ve put into our Courthouse — you can’t just come to a point where you say we’ve gotta stop,” Puzzo said. “… We can’t abandon that. We can’t. It’s just too important for the city.”