BIG STONE GAP — While the tax rate for real estate and tangible personal property will stay the same, the town’s proposed 2019-20 budget includes a slight increase in water rates.

Town council held a public hearing Tuesday on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, including the water rate increase. No town residents commented on the proposed budget.

In-town residents will see a 37-cent water rate increase while out-of-town residents will see a 59-cent increase for the first 1,500 gallons used. There will be a 12-cent in-town and 20-cent out-of-town increase for every 1,000 gallons after that.

The water rate increase is due to an agreement that the town made with the Virginia Department of Health, which funded a water line improvement project in the Cadet area. The town must increase water rates by 2 percent yearly for five years to ensure funding for maintenance and upkeep.

Though there is no change in the real estate tax rate, the town expects to see a $20,000 increase in revenue due to an increase in collections and a property reassessment. Real estate property value assessments were completed in 2018. Also, town Clerk/Treasurer Amanda Hawkins stated that there has been an increase in tax payments and the town is anticipating that it will continue through the next year.

Other expected revenues include an increase in retail sales tax income of $50,000 over the current fiscal year, based on current upward trends. A $40,000 increase in revenue from the meals tax was budgeted because of the expected summer opening of two new restaurants in town.

The overall proposed budget is more than $10.9 million.

The sewer fund proposed budget is more than $1.64 million, an increase of $50,000 from the current fiscal year. The water fund proposed budget is roughly $3.4 million, a decrease of nearly $177,000.

The general fund proposed budget expenses, more than $5.86 million, represent a decrease of nearly $595,000 for the next fiscal year. The decreases come from multiple minor cuts in office supplies and computer equipment, along with completed maintenance and improvement projects on town-owned properties.

Council will vote on the budget at its June 11 meeting.

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