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Hampton officials anticipate static budget

Linda Bond 8/18/11 ps, Lread

The City of Hampton will likely maintain its current budgeting for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012, as officials attempt to offset increased fuel and health-insurance costs.

"I think everybody knows that everything is more expensive this year than last year," said Hampton City Councilman Arley Lowe. "We have to maintain the level of service this year, as we have in the past by being frugal."

The city council has been working on its FY12 Budget proposal since June. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget on Sept. 6, as FY12 begins Oct. 1.

Lowe said the city's various departments have been asked to cut expenses in order to account for increased costs associated with the municipality's operations.

"The [proposed] budget is a balanced [one]," Lowe said. "It's about the same as it was last year."

The city councilman said Hampton will continue to do more, with less, this year. Earlier this summer, the council decided not to impose a city property tax or increase stormwater fees. Lowe said the city also plans to honor a "small cost-of-living increase" for its 53 employees.

"The cost of utilities is a major challenge," said Lowe. "With the increase in fuel costs, we will have to cut back on major expenditures by not buying some new equipment.

"We had planned on buying a new garbage truck," he continued. "We're going to have to repair our existing garbage truck."

Lowe acknowledged plans for capitol improvements will be altered to suit a fiscally conservative budget. For example, the city may cut back on the number of replacement vehicles -- from four to three vehicles -- it had planned for the police department.

"All of our department heads have worked very hard to stay within the guidelines that we gave them," Lowe said. "We're proud of our employees for working within the confines that they have."

The Hampton Police Department is the city's largest department, accounting for a budget of $1.3 million, out of the city's $7.6 million FY11 budget, added Hampton City Manger Andy Pippin. The department's projected FY12 budget may increase to about $1.4 million.

"The police department is the bulk of our budget," said Pippin, noting the city's overall FY12 budget should remain around the $8 million mark.

Pippin said the city's finances include four budgets within its public works department, which manages electricity, water, waste water treatment, and street maintenance. Hampton also accounts for budgets for its Main Street Program and city administration.

"We've also taken some services from the county, which will increase our revenues," said Pippin. Those services, he said, include building inspections and plan reviews.

The city manager said the city currently contracts out commercial inspections and plan reviews for developments, at an hourly rate to Mark Whitley, a "professional engineer" with the Hampton-based Whitley Engineering, Inc. Residential inspections are conducted in-house by J.D. Matthews, a code enforcement officer and building inspector with the city.