Without additional debate or comment Monday, Waynesboro City Council approved a $61.5 million budget for fiscal year 2024 and a 77-cent per $100 real estate tax rate.
Under the budget passed Monday, city employees will receive a 5 percent raise starting in December. In addition, two previously frozen police positions will be unfrozen, and officers will be hired.
While the 77-cent tax rate represents a 13-cent decrease from the current 90-cent rate, most city taxpayers will still feel the pinch of increased real estate taxes. The average increase in value of single-family homes in the city is up nearly 30 percent due to the recent reassessment.
And despite the housing construction near Hopeman Parkway and in the city’s West End, the available housing supply in Waynesboro and the surrounding area remains low.
Meanwhile, the council was briefed Monday night about the current staffing and equipment of the Waynesboro Fire Department.
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Fire Chief Andrew Holloway said the department has 34 staff members, but urgently needs the nine firefighters the department is seeking through a federal SAFER grant.
The grant, which is under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would pay for the nine positions for three years. Ultimately, Waynesboro would have to pay $650,00 to $700,000 yearly to fund the positions. The city is expected to receive word on the SAFER grant this summer.
Holloway said should the department receive the extra firefighters, three could be added to each of the city’s three daily shifts.
The fire chief also spoke of aging fire trucks that require replacement, including a 1999 and 2003 model. Holloway said the 1999 fire truck should be replaced immediately and said the 2003 model needs replacement in two years.
A 20-year fleet plan proposed by the fire chief would allow for a new engine truck every five years.
When starting his report Monday night, Holloway told the council that the department is answering approximately 2,300 calls annually. And he said, “The city is growing.”