The Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners delved int the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget in detail at a budget workshop last Tuesday at The Pilot Center.
By the end of the evening, the commissioners had rejected one proposed fee as unnecessary and accepted another as necessary, though they found it distasteful.
A proposed $7.50 fee per registered motor vehicle would have brought the town $9,750 in new revenue, which by state law would be restricted to transportation projects. Town Manager Michael Boaz proposed the fee to assist with paying for a slate of street paving projects in the works.
Boaz presented the board with several options to finance the paving projects, and arrived at $55,000 as an annual dollar amount for debt service. The town receives $44,000 in Powell Bill funds, leaving $11,000 unfunded. The $7.50 automobile fee would have covered most of that.
The proposed budget included $35,000 in profit sharing from the town’s ABC store. Profits from the store have been used to pay off its debt in the past, but that debt was paid off earlier in 2018, and the town will be able to utilize those funds.
Boaz said the ABC funds in the previous year were $54,000, but he liked to be conservative in budgeting, thus arriving at the $35,000 figure.
Commissioner Gary Bell proposed upping the budgeted amount of ABC funds available in lieu of levying the motor vehicle fee, saying it could be reevaluated next year. Discussion among the board led to a consensus.
Following the meeting, Commissioner Evan Cockerham said, “The credit for being able to avoid the vehicle fee goes to the ABC Board, former Mayor (Earl) Sheppard, the staff, finance director, and all of those folks that were recognized last night (May 14). Because of their work and vision, all taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude for the town having that revenue to offset tax increases to fund important infrastructure repair.”
The board did not fare as well in staving off an increase in minimum water/sewer fees, accepting a proposal to raise them from $28 to $30. Bell proposed cutting the fee increase in half, limiting it to $1, but ultimately the board decided to accept the $2 increase.
“We are supplementing their cheap rates back in the day,” said Cockerham, referencing past boards maintaining rates below costs and paying the difference from fund balances.
The proposed budget also included putting the two in-service water tanks into a maintenance program at a cost of $49,000 per year for the next several years.
Also included in the proposed budget were funds to change the Main Street coordinator position from part-time to full-time. Discussion among the board showed a lack of support for the increased expense.
“That seems like a high amount,” said Commissioner Kim Quinn of the $48,710 annual salary requested for the full-time position.
The board concluded that the hours should be increased from the current 20 hours, but not go to full time.
“Closer to 20,” was the consensus.
The board then discussed what to do with the funds they had decided not to spend on a full-time Main Street coordinator. Paying for roads, sidewalks or applying to fund balance were the choices bandied about.
“We need to fix the sidewalks. We need to fix a lot of stuff,” said Bell.
“I hear a lot about sidewalks,” said Cockerham. “Zero on sidewalks is not an option for me.”
The General Fund budget presented totaled $1,766,510, a decrease from the current budget of 3.26 percent. The Water/Sewer Fund budget totaled $945,800, a 4 percent decrease from the previous year.
After several years of austerity, the town’s general fund balance is 32 percent of general fund expenditures, Boaz noted in a statement to the board.
The public will have an opportunity to offer input on the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget at a public hearing scheduled for June 11 at 6:30 at Town Hall, 124 W. Main St., in the basement board room, preceding the board’s June meeting.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.