The Erwin Board of Commissioners approved the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 during Thursday night’s regular monthly board meeting.
Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Randy Baker made the motion to approve the budget and Commissioner Billy Turnage seconded it. The budget was passed with a vote of 4 to 1 with Commissioners Thurman Whitman and Alvester McKoy also in favor of the approval and Commissioner Frankie Ballard voting against it. Commissioner Ricky Blackmon was not in attendance.
With this budget, Erwin residents will not see an increase in property taxes. That property tax rate will remain at 51 cents per $100 of the property’s tax value.
“Everything is pretty much the same,” said Town Manager Snow Bowden.
General fund revenues and expenditures under the new budget each total $3.7 million. Revenues include $1.08 million from ad valorem taxes, $156,530 ad valorem taxes from motor vehicles and $650,000 sales and use tax. The proposed budget includes the grant the town received of $481,000 for the East Erwin drainage project.
Residents will see a small increase in their water bills for garbage pickup. The town saw a slight increase in the rates for trash and recycling collection. There was a 1.5 percent increase in the rates that the town is being charged by Waste Industries. That means a 24 cents increase for garbage and 7 cents for recyclables.
This is Erwin’s last year with Waste Industries and Mr. Bowden said the contract will be bid out again for the next fiscal year.
Town employees will get a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase under the proposed budget. This would be effective in the first payroll after July 1. There are no new positions in the proposed budget.
The new budget also includes a 12.1 percent increase in employee health insurance costs. This increase is primarily due to the size of the town’s group, and that the town keeps retirees on its basic policy.
Those wishing to rent the ball fields in Erwin will see an increase in user fees. That fee for two hours will increase to $50 without lights and $80 with lights plus a $100 deposit.
Commissioner Ballard raised a question during a discussion of the budget about the lack of a job description for one of the first sergeant positions with the Erwin Police Department. The officer is scheduled July 1 to receive a 5 percent increase in pay upon completing a one-year probationary period as a first sergeant, in addition to the approved 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
“I find this very disturbing that this got by last year,” said Commissioner Ballard, about the promotion in rank without there being a job description. “I am very disappointed in what is going on here.”
Police Chief Jonathan Johnson was called to the podium to answer questions regarding the change in rank and job duties. Commissioner Randy Baker asked in regards to the budget if the amount allocated for the Erwin Police Department would cover this increase in the first sergeant’s pay. Chief Johnson said it would. General fund expenditures for the police department in the new budget are $874,847.
The budget also includes a contribution to the Erwin Fire Department based on a .085 cents tax rate. There is no increase in that tax rate as well. The storm water utility fee also will remain the same.
Mr. Bowden reported that there were no funds used from the fund balance to balance the proposed budget.
The town anticipates renewing its property, liability and worker’s compensation coverage with Travelers Insurance and there is a slight increase in rates.
The budget capital outlay items include $50,445 for 10 rifles with scopes, five Tasers and one new vehicle fitted with lights for the police department and $7,200 to purchase a lawnmower for the public works department.
There are funds allocated in the budget to install security cameras at the library and the community building. There also is a one-time fee of $900 to update the town’s website with Biz Tools.
Commissioners commended employees for the job they did on compiling the town budget. “Snow and his staff did an outstanding job on the budget,” Commissioner Whitman said.
In addition to Town Manager Bowden, administrative employees include Finance Director/Human Resources Director Deborah Chestnut, Town Clerk Cynthia Patterson and Customer Service Specialist Star Bailey.
In other business:
The board of commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a vehicle sales lot at 302 E. Jackson Blvd., Erwin. Conditions for the car lot are that areas must be paved where vehicles will be parked, the building on the property must be brought up to code, including water and sewer, be ADA (American with Disabilities Act) accessible and a receive a driveway permit from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
William Elmore with Elmore Realty, who manages the property for the owner, spoke to the board on behalf of the owner and tenant. He asked the board to allow the business to locate there without having to pave the lot.
“The tenants are not in a position to pave the parking area,” said Mr. Elmore.
After much discussion, the board decided to still require paving the customer parking and vehicle display areas with asphalt because this was a condition required just a few months ago for another vehicle sales business.
“We want to be consistent with guidelines to be fair to everyone,” Commissioner Baker said.
“I’m in favor of approving the car lot, but not of all the restrictions we are putting on it,” Commissioner Turnage said.