Foxfire Village held the first of two citizens’ participation budget workshops on Tuesday, May 7.
Mike Cole, Captain of the West End Fire and Rescue Department, was the only citizen in attendance, aside from the Council members. For the benefit of one, the Council laid out the proposed budget.
“We would like to give residents some idea where our revenue comes from and where it goes,” said Councilwoman Leslie Frusco, who heads the finance committee.
At the previous work session, the council had worked to prioritize departmental spending and make any necessary cuts. The revised budget is still a work in progress.
“This is the preliminary budget,” Frusco said. “After we have our citizens’ participation meetings we will go back and review it.”
The finance committee has devoted much of 2014 to the budget. “This is a process we have spent a lot of time on,” Frusco said, “making sure we are serving the needs of the Village and our residents and also taking care of our employees.”
The Council hopes that the end result will welcome new residents. “By keeping the Village looking good we hope to encourage potential people to come and build homes, while being cognitive of our residents’ needs,” Frusco said.
The Village’s two main funds are the General Fund and the Water Fund. The General Fund’s expected revenue for FY2014 is $943,300 and the Water Fund’s expected income is $228,500.
Fifty-nine percent of General Fund revenue is derived from property and motor vehicle taxes. The current tax rate is thirty-five cents per hundred dollars of valuation. Sales tax and assessments make up twenty-nine percent of General Fund revenues, with utility taxes, State Street Aid (Powell Bill funds), and swimming pool fees rounding out the remaining twelve percent.
The water fund revenues support the Village’s Water Department and include water billings, assessments, tap-on fees, and irrigation meters.
Projected General Fund expenditures include Public Safety, which consumes 20.8 percent of the budget, and Administration, at 18.2 percent. Administrative costs are split between the Water Fund and the General Fund, with the Water Fund covering more than 80 percent of the expense.
The Village’s debt service is paid with revenue from both the General Fund and the Water Fund. The General Fund covers loans for the Village Park, at $160,000, and Woodland Circle, at $1,630,855. The Water Fund is responsible for $140,170 in Woodland Circle related debt, as well as Wells and Water Lines debt totaling $253,738.
As the council pared down expenses they sought to balance economy with providing necessary services. Councilman Mick McCue explained the difficulty in weighing the needs of the Village’s Public Safety Department.
“How to balance a three legged stool?” he asked. “It includes the safety our citizens and officers, maintaining a reasonable tax rate while taking care of our people.”
“I want to commend our Fire Chief and the Chief of Police,” McCue added. “They run the departments as tightly as possible and give us a tremendous bang for our buck.”
“There are things we can make very good arguments for. But we can’t have it all without raising our taxes,” McCue said. Several of the needs included more patrol time and rifles.
“Our police officers can come up against fire power that they cannot match,” he explained. “These are the things that we struggled with.”
For this year, the Safety Department has prioritized two other needs over patrol time and increasing firepower.
“We would rather have an in-vehicle camera,” McCue said. “We also need to have work done on our evidence locker so that we can bring it up to speed. We have to have a proper chain of custody. These are some of the things we have tried to balance. We are indeed balanced, but we don’t have everything we want when it comes to Public Safety.”
Street maintenance took a big hit at the previous meeting. Councilman and head of the roads committee Vic Koos said, “If we paved every street in the village we are talking about $90,000 per mile. It would cost right under $1.5 million.”
Working with about one-tenth of that amount, a budget of $152,000, it is necessary to prioritize necessary repairs.
“In order to pave, you have to patch it first,” Koos said. “Cracking of the surface and any shifting during this past year, we spent all the money available on patching. We just have one more street Wildwood to be patched this fiscal year.”
“Next year, where to pave is based on our financial limitations. I don’t want to pave half the road. I want to pave the whole road. That limits what I have for my budget,” Koos said. “I am formulating a three-year plan based on what my budget will be.”
Cost of Living Increase
The Council included a two percent salary increase for the Village’s employees in the preliminary budget.
“We value our employees,” Frusco said. “I am sure everyone on the council wishes we could do more for the employees.”
Due to a state-mandated increase in employee health and retirement benefits, the Village will be responsible for an additional $6,800 in health insurance and retirement coverage for its full-time employees.
Village Mayor George Erickson said, “I would like to reiterate, we tussled with increasing benefits for our employees at some of our past work sessions. As you said earlier, we have tentatively agreed on a two percent increase.”
Councilman Steve Durham reported that the Council anticipated little change in the water department’s budget.
“We are in a good place with our infrastructure and water tank,” he said.
Durham said that future capital projects would need to be considered carefully: “It will depend on whether or not we choose to continue to operate our own water system.”
Erickson opened the floor to public comment.
Resident Mike Cole asked whether the Village would ever consider having its own municipal fire department.
Cole expressed his concern that the Moore County Board of Commissioners plan to implement a flat fire tax countywide — to the disadvantage of West End Fire and Rescue.
“Just because they are going to get ten cents on a hundred doesn’t mean that they will pay us that,” Cole said. “If we become a municipal department then we are not locked in to a flat tax.”
“It’s worth researching,” Frusco replied. “Let’s see if we can get together in the near future to at least talk about some of these things.”
Durham advised inquiring at the state level.
“The League of Municipalities can to give guidance to how big a municipality has to be before it becomes feasible to have its own fire department,” he said.
The Village’s Citizen Participation Budget Workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30.