The council Monday decided to grant the Utilities Commission a temporary waiver letting them hold off on the increases. Monday's action was the first reading of the waiver, but opposition to putting off the increase isn't expected.
Utilities Commission members last Thursday (Sept. 15) heard a report that said the water department was $242,000 in the red, mainly the result of the County Water District's new water plant removing the city's income from sales to the district.
Also, an ordinance passed by the commission in 1993 required an automatic increase in rates when such a deficit occurred.
The commission asked for a waiver in view of other expected increases in ratepayers' bills (natural gas, gasoline, etc.) and decided to ask for the waiver.
A question from Councilman Leon Shaw was directed at the 2007 reconsideration. Will the increase then be double the 20 percent this year? he asked. The answer from City Clerk-Treasurer Kerry White was "not likely, but it might be something like 4 percent more than the current 20 percent."
CPA Dan Drane, an independent auditor, gave the city a "clean opinion" on an audit of the 2004-05 books.
The city reports it took in $5.3 million during the year and spent $4.4 million. The report said total revenues had increased by just over 8 percent, while expenses increased by about 5 percent from the previous year.
One major impact on the budget during the past year was the closure of Bosch Tools Corporation (Vermont American), dropping income to the city from occupational taxes of about $55,000 to $64,000. This loss, the city reported, was offset by growth at Bel Cheese, Inc.
In his report, Drane said the city came to the end of the fiscal year with $7.8 million in assets and $1.1 million in liabilities, giving it a $6.7 million net worth.
In other action, the council:
The council asked Police Chief Greg Dennison to experiment with the meter so that the council could set a standard reading in -- boom cars vs. regular traffic noise -- in a future ordinance. There was also a request that the final ordinance include a higher fine for noise after dark.
The council, in the face of renewed complaints about the noise from boom cars, is taking a new look at a possible ordinance. A similar law was tabled two years ago.
Councilmen Billy Dallas and Leon Shaw did not vote on the zone change, and Mayor William H. Thomason broke the tie vote with a "yes." (Two council members were absent.)