Proposed spending down from last year in Victoria, hearing date set

Published 8:30 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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It’s becoming more expensive for towns and counties to operate their own water treatment facilities. As a result, the water budget in the Town of Victoria has to go up. That’s one of a couple changes in the proposed overall budget, which the council will possibly vote on this month. 

Overall, the proposed budget stands at $2.521 million, continuing to grow as prices rise. For example, back in fiscal year 2022, the overall budget stood at $2.1 million, with just $719,970 needed in the water fund. This year, the proposed water fund stands at $766,200. For those following on a year to year basis, that’s a 4.75% increase over last year. 

“The water fund saw a 4.75% increase over the FY2024 budget due to increases in operating costs,” Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton said in a statement. “Over the last few years, the cost of water treatment supplies has gone up drastically.”

As an example, the chemical chlorine is used to eliminate bacteria, kill mold and cut down on odor in water. The price of chlorine has spiked 56.5% over the last year. Sodium Fluoride, meanwhile, used in water to prevent tooth decay, has gone up in price 240%. That’s because the mineral at the heart of sodium fluoride, fluorspar, has been harder to find. As more and more countries allowed industries to fully reopen over the last two years, there was a dramatic spike in orders. A shrinking supply and rising demand led to the dramatic increase in price. Other parts of the water treatment process have also climbed in price, with soda ash up 40% and the chemical delpac, which reduces sludge, going up 52%. 

All of that means water treatment takes up more of the town’s budget. To balance that out, the proposed budget calls for an increase in the minimum water rate from $31.50 per 3,000 gallons to $35 per 3,000 gallons. It hasn’t been that long since the last water rate increase, as it went up from $30.50 to $31.50 in fiscal year 2023. 

What about the other funds? 

As we mentioned, the water fund is one of three main parts of this year’s budget. The other two are the general fund and the sewer fund. For the sewer fund, nothing much changes. The proposed budget puts it at $647,200, same as last year.

“This budget was able to remain at the same level due to anticipated savings from the construction of the new Grove Avenue pump station and the closure of the West Wastewater Treatment Facility,” Newton said in a statement. 

And the third major portion, the proposed general fund, is overall down from last year. It stands at $950,000, which is down an estimated 2%. But while the overall proposed general fund is down from last year, several departments would see an increase if this gets approved. For example, the police department would get a $385,675 budget, which factors in raises to help with police officer retention. Victoria Fire and Rescue would get $116,000 in the new budget, which covers the need to replace some turnout gear and other apparatus. 

Also in the budget, thanks to an expected $30,000 in meals tax revenue and $6,600 in miscellaneous revenue, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department would get a $36,600 budget. That would include $1,500 for trail upkeep, $5,000 for park equipment, $7,100 for entertainment costs and $12,500 for repairs and supplies, among other items. The town pool would also get a $19,000 budget, balanced off an expected $16,000 in passes, $2,000 in concessions and $1,000 from special events. 

What’s next in Victoria? 

Up next is the public hearing and potentially a final vote on the proposed budget. The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, beginning at 7 p.m. That’ll take place at the Victoria Municipal Building, located at 1809 Main Street.