City dodges fiscal emergency

By Frank Lewis

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The very real specter of fiscal emergency status has been hanging over the city of Portsmouth’s head for several years. Now with the recent passage of the income tax increase, that may have been removed, but with caution.

“We won’t be in fiscal emergency. We’ll still remain in fiscal watch because they want to see we are responsible,” Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen told the Daily Times. “If we were to get that new money and spend it crazy we would be right back in the same situation. I don’t know what the oversight is but I have not had to submit reports which I was having to do. But I think they’ll still monitor us in next year’s budget to see what happens.”

Voters recently increased the city’s income tax rate to 2.5 percent from the previous 2 percent.

Allen said the city’s audit has been completed.

“I’m proud to say for the first time in many years we do not have to make financial adjustments to correct any cost allocations,” Allen told City Council. “We are making, I would think, significant progress in eliminating all of the issues.”

Allen told the Daily Times the city still has a deficit balance in the Wastewater and Street funds.

“The Street will be fixed,” Allen said. “In the Wastewater the rates have to be adjusted. We’re trying to wait on that to see if we can figure out the monthly bill properly.”

The Daily Times has received calls from citizens that there is a perceived discrepancy in the new monthly billing procedure in that their new monthly bill does not seem to equal one-third of their former quarterly bills – in fact – appears to be less than anticipated. Allen said he too had heard reports and plans to look into the situation.

“The supervisor there (George Howard) is retiring in a month, and everything’s on hold until I get a new person in there to revamp and to review everything and then to confirm that everything is being done accurately,” Allen said.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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