|Proposal includes no tax or rate increases |
Monday, March 24, 2014
Rocky Mount's town staff intends to present a balanced budget with no changes in tax rates or fees, helped in large part by increased economic activity in town.
Town Manager James Ervin, Assistant Manager Matt Hankins and Finance Director Linda Woody presented their budget outlook last week to town council. The managers detailed department heads' requests for capital and operational funding for the fiscal year, which starts July 1.
"We intend to give you a budget that holds taxes and fees level with current year rates," Hankins told council. "We know new restaurants are coming, a new bed-and-breakfast at the Grove, and we expect the Harvester Performance Center to drive an increase in retail activity, along with some possible industrial expansions within the next year."
The two-hour review session gave town council the opportunity to establish its priorities and provide the staff with guidance on where to spend next year.
"Staff is recommending a bond issue in the upcoming fiscal year to accomplish some of these capital expenses," Ervin told council. "Whatever direction you give tonight, we will bring you a balanced budget that addresses our major needs within our ability to fund them."
Major projects are in the works for the coming year, including repairing the stream bank at Veterans' Memorial Park, the removal of the aging water storage tanks on Pendleton Street, replacing aging public works equipment and modernizing key components of the water and wastewater treatment plants.
Hankins outlined department concerns for the coming year, both in terms of the operating budget and the capital budget. The operating budget pays for all ordinary day-to-day expenses, including payroll. The capital budget funds major project and unusual expenses.
Town staff urged council to be prepared to borrow funds in a bond of up to $2.5 million.
"We have fallen way behind on our capital," Hankins said.
Town department heads asked for over $2.6 million in capital improvements, some of which cannot be accomplished in a single year, said Ervin.
"We have one of the lowest debt ratios in Virginia," Ervin said. "We have the capacity to borrow to do the projects that require our immediate attention."
"The wastewater treatment plant bond was completely paid off in the current fiscal year, so we have the capacity to borrow and catch up on some of the capital needs we haven't been able to fund due to the recession of the past five years," Hankins said. "We can essentially lower our debt payment, help restore our fund balances and provide the equipment necessary to maintain our streets and utilities."
Other budget priorities include addressing staff pay and rebuilding the town's reserves in its general fund, utility fund and utility capital fund.
"Employee compensation has been difficult to increase for the past five years, and we need to address the compensation of our employees in order to keep qualified and experienced staff," Ervin said.
Town council questioned several potential expenses, including the town's contribution to the county's updated emergency radio system, the need for a backup generator at the water treatment plant, and a lease for two new police patrol vehicles.
The town staff is due to complete and distribute its budget by March 28. Town council will hold budget work sessions on April 23, April 28 and, if needed, May 1. The town's planning commission will hold a review of the capital plan at its April 8 meeting.
Town council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the budget on May 5, and adopt the budget on May 12.