The Auburn City Council delayed a vote on its FY2013 budget during a Sept. 6 meeting after two council members opposed a proposed hike in water fees. The council is slated to meet again Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the budget and possibly hold a final vote on Sept. 20.
Last week, council members Peggy Langley and Robert Vogel opposed raising the city’s water rates, a key part of making the FY2013 budget balance. With council member Donna Scouten absent, neither Langley or Vogel would second council member Dorissa Shackelford’s motion to raise the rates.
Also tied to the opposition to the budget was Langley and Vogel’s objections to the city’s new bus system known as A.N.T.
"I am not raising the water fees for the citizens of Auburn when (we) are wasting and throwing $45,000 away on the trolley," Langley said. "I can’t do that."
The bus system was created in an effort to help a private developer, TBG Residential, get a tax break on a proposed apartment complex in Auburn.
This week, mayor Linda Blechinger expressed “surprise” at the conflict over the proposed water fee increase and the city’s new bus system. She said it was the city’s strategic and comprehensive planning that led to projects such as A.N.T. She expects the bus system to take six months to a year to get established in the community. But if the TBG project doesn’t pan out and the city continues to lose money with its bus system, Blechinger said it would be stopped.
Over the past two months, the council met at least four times to dissect the budget, which at $2.85 million is 14.25 percent less than last year’s budget. A lower tax digest from the real estate collapse and lower sales tax income have hit the city’s budget in recent years.
For the full story, see the Sept. 12 issue of the Barrow Journal.