Holding the line

Published 12:49 pm Sunday, June 16, 2013

AHOSKIE – The public passed up an opportunity to speak their mind on the proposed new operating budget for the Town of Ahoskie for 2013-14.

There was really no need to voice any concerns over the financial document as, after all, there was not a property tax increase nor a rise in water/sewer fees as earlier anticipated.

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday morning, members of the Ahoskie Town Council unanimously adopted a General Fund and Enterprise Fund budget for the new fiscal year which starts July 1.

“It is recommended that the current tax rate (76 cents per $100 of property value) remain the same, and that’s even with the opening and debt service of the new fire station (a $1.8 million facility),” Town Manager Tony Hammond told the board members.

Hammond’s budget reflects $7.36 million in General Fund revenues and expenditures, which is 5.6 percent lower than the current fiscal year. The Enterprise Fund side of the budget is $3.58 million, marking a 1.8 percent increase.

“Even with increases in professional services, utilities, employee benefits, to include healthcare and worker comp, the cost of fuel, auto and property insurance, the debt service payments for the police and fire stations, the purchase of police vehicles, and the additional staff to cover the annexation areas, our staff has developed a viable budget,” Hammond said.

Hammond said he built the budget based on a new estimated tax base of $279.3 million, which includes residential and commercial properties as well as personal property.

“This new tax base reflects a decrease in some values, some growth of new homes, new businesses, annexations and alterations, but does not reflect the newer development of the last six months or the expected growth of the next 12 months,” he noted.

In the previous five years, Hammond said there was a need at the outset of the budgeting process to include unappropriated fund balance to balance the bottom line. However, by the end of the fiscal year that money was not needed due to the financial oversight by staff and department heads.

“There will not be a need to appropriate funds from the fund balance to balance out the General fund expenditures this year,” Hammond said.

He added that $500,000 ($402,898 to cover salaries and utility charges) will be moved from the Enterprise Fund, but with the same oversight those appropriations may not be needed by the end of the 2013-14 budget cycle.

Earlier in the budget planning process, Hammond said there was the possibility that water/sewer rates may need to increase by three percent, as suggested by the Local Government Commission.

“The Town Council opposed that, they made it clear they wanted to hold the rates at their current levels,” Hammond stated.

Upon making a motion to approve the budget as presented, Councilwoman Linda Blackburn noted the effort to hold the water/sewer rates at their current levels. Councilman Malcolm Copeland offered a second and the budget was approved by a 5-0 vote.

As outlined in the budget, the lion’s share of the General Fund revenues will come from property taxes ($2.1 million). Other major sources of revenue include funds from commercial sources for capital improvements ($1.1 million), the local option sales tax ($825,000), garbage fees ($531,360), and the utilities franchise tax ($271,000).

On the expenditures side of the budget (from General Fund and Enterprise Fund), the top departments receiving taxpayer/user fee money include:

Police – $2.7 million

Wastewater Treatment: $1.9 million

Water/Sewer: $1.6 million

Fire – $836,000

Cultural & Recreational – $781,153

Administration – $683,858

Governing body – $478,915

Streets – $403,404

Public Works – $375,053

Planning/Zoning – $191,055

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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