RICHWOOD — A councilman abstained from voting, leaving the mayor to break a tie and adopt the same tax rate as the current fiscal year.

Council members Mike Johnson and Melissa Strawn voted for the ordinance adopting the same tax rate of 67.02 cents per $100 of property value.

Council members Katie Johnson and Matt Yarborough voted against it, while Councilman Mark Brown abstained from the vote.

Mayor Steve Boykin broke the tie with an “aye.”

The tax rate is the same as the current year, but it is 9.65 percent higher than the effective tax rate — the rate that would bring in the same amount of total revenue for properties on the tax rolls for both years.

The adopted tax rate will bring in $177,227 more from existing properties than this year, according to the budget, and $71,848 from new property.

The increase in revenue will go toward increased debt payments from a voter-approved $5 million bond for drainage, street and sidewalk improvements, and the city will collect less revenue for its maintenance and operations, according to previous reports.

The total debt obligation is $354,143, the budget states.

The approved tax rate will bring in $10,284 less in maintenance and operations revenue, The Facts previously reported.

Yarborough voted against motions to adopt the budget and tax rate because he said this budget is like “putting down the shovel” but not getting the city out of the hole. At an earlier meeting, Yarborough said he wanted a higher tax rate.

Katie Johnson said year after year, council raises taxes and utility bills because Richwood has infrastructure issues to address and old things to fix.

“It’s always a crisis, it’s always ‘we have to fix it or the city’s going to fall apart,’” she said.

She questioned how long it would be until staff has a solid plan to fix infrastructure and budgeting problems.

Brown abstained because he wished council would have done more, but was not opposed to taking a step forward, he said.

Katie Johnson and Brown expressed interest in cutting expenditures and bringing business to the city to create revenue sources to add to residential rooftops.

That can’t happen until the city improves its water system, which cannot handle any more growth, Interim City Manager Lindsay Koskiniemi said.

“Y’all have to have a tremendous amount of patience,” Interim Finance Director John Washburn said. “You’re five, 10 years away from bringing an outside revenue source.”

Richwood is a unique city considering its limited revenue, Washburn said.

Narrowing expenditures is possible in the future, but this budget does not have many frills, he said.

“This is pretty close to being a bare bones budget in my experience,” Washburn said.

Council nixed two expenditure requests — upgrades to the P.K. Forrest Community Building and a new storage building for public works equipment — early on in the budget process.

The budget passed with Brown, Strawn and Mike Johnson voting in favor and Katie Johnson and Yarborough voting against it. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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