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While citizens face financial hardships Pittsboro considers raising taxes and fees

By Linda Bienvenue
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - Well, here it is, the end of April.

It seems like eons ago, but it was precisely two months ago, February 27th to be exact, when our illustrious elected (and non-elected) officials in our Town of Pittsboro, were so excited when the mid-year 2011-2012 Financial Report was given by the Town Finance Officer at the BOC meeting.

So as to NOT misquote anything, I will insert the portion from the actual minutes of the February 27, 2012 meeting for your review:

NEW BUSINESS (moved to proceed before OLD BUSINESS per amendment to the Agenda)

1. Mid-Year FY 2011/2012 Financial Report

Finance Officer Amanda Cartrette addressed the Mayor and Board and took the opportunity to give them a brief synopsis of where the Town is financially for FY 2011/2012. The first two things I want to point out are some figures from FY 2010/2011. The ending Reserve General Fund Balance was $1,635,153 and that amounts to 54% of the General Fund Expenditures. At the end of FY 2010/2011, the Enterprise Fund balance was $1,181,401, which amounts to nearly 51% of total Enterprise Fund expenditures. That gives you an idea of where we left off last year.

Town Staff expects their revenue will exceed budgeted projections by nearly $116,000 dollars this year. The primary reason behind that is that our sales tax revenue is ahead of where we thought it would be when we did the budget. We expected that the Town would receive $477,000 for sales tax revenue for 2011/2012 and we have currently received $328,719 that is already nearly 69% of what we have projected so we are expecting to receive approximately $600,000 in sales tax revenue.

The second area where we have received a little bit more money than we thought was Powell Bill funds and that is for the maintenance and repair of Town streets, right-of-ways and sidewalks. The Town estimated that it would receive $90,000 for its Powell Bill distribution, but it has actually received a total of $114,970 in Powell Bill Funds.

So that should be all that we are receiving for this fiscal year but it is a little bit more than what we originally anticipated.

A third area we have done pretty well in is the ad valorem property tax collection. The Town has budgeted $1,172,000 and, as of the end of January, we had already collected $1,110,275. So that is almost 94.5% of what we have projected. The Town still has five months to collect property taxes this fiscal year and Town staff expects that it will be $1,175, 000.

One area the Town expects to receive a little bit less revenue than what was budgeted is the Utility Franchise Tax Distribution. Because of the mild weather this past winter, we do not expect to collect as much utility franchise tax or natural gas tax as what we budgeted.

The next page in your packet should show General Fund Departments and how much we have budgeted and how much we have actually spent thus far. In total, we expect to under expend our projections by around $64,000. And you can see the departments and how much we expect to under expend in the chart that has been provided for you. I will note that one particular area of concern in the Town expenditures is the rising cost of fuel. As fuel goes up, departments have to use Town vehicles a lot and operate a lot of equipment and may struggle to stay within their budgets in the fuel line item.

For Water and Sewer Fund Revenues, we expect to exceed projections by $146,300. Our water revenue is expected to be $94,000 more than what was projected, and sewer revenue is expected to be $31,000 more than what was projected. With Townsend closing, the Town budgeted very conservatively as it projected water and sewer revenue for this year. In addition, the water and sewer revenue from Townsend did not completely disappear. They are still using some water and sewer at their plant.

I have also provided the chart that shows the Water and Sewer Fund Department and the amount of the budget and the year to date actual expenditures through the month of January. Again, we expect to under expend our budgeted expenditures by around $62,000. But, like the General Fund, fuel expenditures are a matter of concern in the department.

One of the purposes of providing the Board with this summary is to provide information on whether the Town should provide salary increases to Town staff. Mr. Terry and I have given you six basic options that you can take. The Board can choose to approve a 3% raise that is in line with the Consumer Price Index and make that retroactive to January. The Board can choose to approve a 3% raise that is in line with the Consumer Price Index and make that raise effective for a future date. The Board can choose a lower percentage for employee salary increases. It can choose a higher percentage for employee salary increases. Or the Board can choose to provide a one-time bonus as either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of salary to include in employee paychecks in a future paycheck this fiscal year. Or the Board can choose not to opt for any salary increases at this time. And there is a chart enclosed in your packet that shows the cost of just the salary increase at .5% all the way up to 5%. But the Manager’s recommendation at this time is to award a 3% raise to all Town employees, excluding the Town Manager, effective back to the first full payroll in January.

The Board was asked if they had any questions.

Commissioner Fiocco asked if she knew what kind of revenue the Enterprise Fund is seeing from Townsends’ plant. Ms. Cartrette said she did not know. She said she and Mr. Terry had discussed it and she believes they are doing some maintenance and some custodial things. Manager Terry said it has basically been reduced down to what is essentially a residential account. They have a caretaker operation out there. They are not processing chicken anymore but they do have a few people that are doing maintenance and so they are using like a residential residence so it is the rough equivalent of somebody’s house so it is not dramatic.

Mayor Voller asked so you project that the sales tax revenues are going to be up approximately 38% for the year if it keeps going at that rate. Ms. Cartrette said she estimated conservatively still and I said that we are going to get a total of $600,000. Mayor Voller said so the Powell Bill funds are 26% higher, which is really good, and you’ve got the ABC collections that are coming in which are excellent. Ms. Cartrette said that is not noted in here but we also did receive more ABC revenue than what was originally anticipated. Mayor Voller said so you are looking at a 25-38% increase. We have sales tax revenue possibly; we have more money for roads, which is excellent, and the Enterprise Fund, even with the near closing of Townsend, which is good.

Mayor Voller said this is a good opportunity so all the Board members got the letter from Scott Jewell. The Board responded yes. Mayor Voller said he sent out a letter announcing that we have now complied again and this is for the 10th consecutive quarter of compliance and we are at .024 and you have to be at .08 for TTHMs and .0094 and the Town Hall .0068 milligrams/liter and you have to be at .06 so I think the Town should send a thank-you to Scott and staff because all those investments don’t really mean anything if the staff isn’t actually working very hard to make the water as good as it can be. That affects the new school so the water in Pittsboro is many times better than it was before and the thanks go to investments by this Board and previous Boards and staff. I think that is excellent news and the fact that the fund is solvent and, even with the loss of Townsends, making money that’s good that is what we are supposed to be doing.

Manager Terry added that the revenue estimates on the Enterprise Fund side are also conservative. We basically have achieved that level of surplus, unexpected level of revenue, as we sit here today and, typically, as we get into the warmer spring and summer months water use will likely increase so the projected overage that Mandy and I have put in there is actually conservative and it could be conservative by half. Water and sewer revenues are going to be very good. Mayor Voller asked for Mr. Terry’s feelings about Scott Jewell and the team. Manager Terry said amazing, fantastic, they are doing great work out there and I visited recently and one thing I meant to tell the Board is I did see Commissioner Harrington the other day and I shared it with him. But some of you may recall that there is a lot of discussion about powdered activated carbon or whether or not to use that when we were wrestling with this problem initially, and basically since Scott is in the room he can give you more details but I believe it is his impression that choramination got us in compliance but it was powder activated carbon that drove the numbers really down to what you are seeing today.

Mayor Voller asked Scott to come up and join Mandy. Applause from the group. Mayor Voller said Scott is very open to giving tours to children and other folks interested in the water plant to understand how your water is made. We get our water from the Haw River, it is not a consistent source in that the chemistry is very challenging and changing day to day but, due to Scott and his staff’s work, he has managed to spin silk from a sow’s ear so to speak so I think he deserves a lot of credit because the Town of Pittsboro’s water, for years, was not seen as a good thing and now it is actually a high point. In fact, where do we compare to the rest of the Triangle?

Scott responded we are in the game with them. Mayor Voller said in the past we were not seen in a positive way. Scott responded that was correct. He welcomed anybody that would like to give us a call; we would like to take you on a tour. We are really excited about what we are doing out there. I am a Water Treatment Operator but I am also a water quality guy and there is a little bit of a difference, so I am really proud of what we’re doing. It is a complex raw water source that we have coming out of Haw River. Mayor Voller said he thinks that anyone that lives in town or has a business in town should be happy to see that these investments have paid off and please go tour the plant. This is the man to contact but he deserves the credit and the staff deserves the credit so thank you very much, Scott. Applause from the group.

Commissioner Fiocco asked Mandy what we projected as revenue from the ABCÂ Board. Mandy responded we have two separate revenue lines. One is General ABC Revenue. We projected $18,000 and thus far we have gotten $14,742 this year. The other line is ABC revenues that are used for law enforcement. We projected $1,300 and we have received thus far $1,607 and this is the first year in some time we have received regular revenue every quarter. We were just getting it once a fiscal year but they have been pretty good about sending it. Commissioner Fiocco said he was thinking our tally for this fiscal year was $32,000. Mandy said that is not what we have

recorded. Commissioner Fiocco said he thinks that is what we have actually received. Mayor Voller said we received more than was budgeted. Ms. Cartrette said this is just through January so we have those other two – I believe they came in February. Manager Terry said Commissioner Fiocco there may have been one payment that the auditor reversed to the prior year. Ms. Cartrette said there was one thing we received in the fall that was reverted back to the prior year by our auditors and then we have one other allocation that we received and I believe it was this month.Commissioner Fiocco said he would like to follow up on the Manager’s recommendation. I think we spend a lot of money in this town on equipment and things and the Town doesn’t work without people and I would like to take this opportunity to reward and invest in our people and I make a motion that we adopt the Manager’s first recommendation to approve a 3% raise as in line with the Consumer Line Index and make the raise retroactive to January. Motion seconded by Commissioner Farrell. Vote Aye-5 Nay-0

This past week in the Chatham Record (April 26, 2012), we had the column “PITTSBORO EYES RATE INCREASES.”

Quoting the first sentence of the article, “The Pittsboro Town Manager’s recommended budget for the next fiscal year includes hikes in property taxes and water/sewer rates.”

Now, tell me if I am wrong, but didn’t the meeting minutes above state that Pittsboro was exceeding budget expectations for revenue, so much so that the extra monies had to be distributed in raises?

Now, before ya’ll get on me for that, how many people in our town would just love to have a job and are struggling to pay their taxes (and some of the highest water rates) just so raises could be awarded? So, we are talking about a $600+ increase in property taxes, as well as (hold on to your hats) – an increase in your basic monthly service fee of $6.00 (added to the $10 you are already paying), and a 3-9% increase in the actual tiered water rates.

Yikes! We all have to flush our toilets every other day instead of once a day. Forget about showers.

While it is difficult for all of us to attend Town Meetings, I encourage everyone to go online, and check out what your elected officials are really doing behind the scenes with your money.

It is up to us to make sure that we keep ourselves informed and hold them accountable and speak up.

Go to pittsboronc.gov to check things out.

 
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While citizens face financial hardships Pittsboro considers raising taxes and fees
 
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