BY DEBBIE PAGE
Finance Director Steve Shealy presented the proposed 2021-2022 budget to Troutman Town Council members during an all-day retreat on Tuesday. The $4,842,869 budget plan holds the property tax rate at 52 cents per $100 valuation and includes no water/sewer fee increases for residents.
When meeting with department heads to construct the proposed budget, Shealy said he received very few out-of-the ordinary requests because staff was cognizant of the economic uncertainties facing the town due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shealy first gave the good news on revenues for this fiscal year. The current budget projected $2,962,467 in property tax collections, but Shealy reported that the town had collected $3,059,803 through the end of February and expects that number to rise to $3,120,000 by June 30.
Sales tax revenue was also strong, with $634,000 expected in the coffers this year, but actual numbers are projected to reach $790,000 by June 30. ABC profits to the town are also $10,000 more than expected. Additionally, the town received nearly $67,000 in COVID-19 funds this fiscal year.
Shealy expects the town to receive about $810,000 in proceeds from the federal American Rescue Act, which he did not include in next year’s proposed budget. When the funds arrive, the council will add the windfall through budget amendments once they decide how to expend them.
The Planning and Zoning Department is getting a nearly $115,000 boost in next year’s proposed budget with additional personnel being added to process the booming housing construction in the area.
With the addition of more homes and streets from new subdivisions, Shealy boosted funding for street maintenance about $40,000 and sanitation by $24,000. Recreation also is getting a $7,000 increase with economic development funds rising about $13,000 over this year’s budget.
Budgeting for professional services is also rising about $4,500 because of increased legal services to rewrite the Town Charter and other needs.
♦ To keep the town’s pay scale competitive with nearby municipalities, Town Manager Ron Wyatt proposed a 2 percent pay increase, a 2 percent cost of living increase, and a possible 2 percent incentive for all town employees.
Wyatt explained that the town’s pay scale has fallen behind in the past few years, which has led to recruiting problems to fill open positions.
♦ The town is taking on nearly $140,000 in debt service for each of the next ten years with the purchase of two properties on Wagner Street and lots and two homes on the corner of Scroggs and North Eastway next to Town Hall.
♦ Council members expressed concerns about possible higher sewer costs if Statesville City Council raises the town’s water and sewer rates 20 percent as City Manager Ron Smith proposes. Troutman purchases capacity from Statesville, and Wyatt believes Troutman is the city’s largest customer.
Shealy added more money to the budget proposal for expected increased water and sewer demand with more new homes coming online in the coming year.
♦ The town is hiring a part-time information technology employee to evaluate, update and troubleshoot the town’s aging computers.
Wyatt also wants to set up a replacement schedule for computers to keep equipment up-to-date in a cost-effective manner and to increase employees’ speed and efficiency. Some money may need to be added to the budget for updating computers.
♦ The Public Works Department requested a $286,550 jetting machine to replace its 1999 model that is barely performing. The machine performs state required sewer clean out of at least 10 percent of the town’s lines, though Director Adam Lippard typically achieves 20 percent.
The department has stopped the required clean out for now to save the machine for true emergency situations. Lippard also noted the fines for an environmental spill are high if the town cannot unclog a sewer.
Council members suggested buying the machine with accumulated $700,000 in utility capital reserve funds rather than borrowing to save $20,000 in interest.
♦ The Planning and Zoning Department asked for a state-of-the-art GIS work station to improve its speed and efficiency in providing planning services to residents. The additional technology may also help Troutman attract a permanent town planner in a heavily competitive market, according to Interim Town Planner Jonathan Wells.
♦ The police department requested two F150 trucks with EcoBoost at a cost of about $100,000. Wyatt said one may be purchased, if one is available, with unused funds in this year’s budget, leaving only one for consideration next year.
The department is also requesting a nearly $18,000 radar trailer and new $5,000 radar pole to replace the defunct one on Wagner Street. Mayor Teross Young suggested adding an additional radar pole near Iredell Charter School as well.
The department also requested traffic barricades for special events at a cost of $1,200.
♦ Wyatt suggested adding electronic transfer services to the budget to alleviate physical document storage issues.
♦ The town manager believes the legislature will delay local elections this fall because late census data leaves little time to adjust municipal districts, so budgeted election funds may not be needed.
♦ Wyatt said the town was re-evaluating its code enforcement process and may change its contracted services approach next year.
♦ Interior demolition at the town’s property at 151 Wagner Street is complete. Wyatt said the costs to upfit it as a basic commercial space are estimated to be $60,000 to $75,000. New plumbing, electrical, windows, and a structural beam are included in the costs.
The upstairs tenant has also vacated, so that area will be updated and re-rented at a higher rate.
Wyatt said several potential business owners are interested in the commercial space. The lessee will be responsible for finishing the interior to match the business’s needs. He expects the rent for the space to be a minimum of $1,250 per month.
♦ Mayor Young questioned whether the town needs to stripe center lines down town streets, especially heavily traveled ones. Wells suggested looking at street designations and classifications in making those decisions.
♦ The Troutman Police Department currently has three open positions. Wyatt said applicants have been selected and the clearance process is underway before official hiring.
♦ Several items are being put up for auction on govdeals.com, including a street legal golf cart, a Ford car, a video projector, projector screens, a printer, and the Front Porch Fest porch prop. The proceeds will go toward a new golf cart and other needs.
♦ The mayor suggested consideration of replacing the 15-year-old chairs in the council chamber, which are stained and scuffed. He also wants to form a committee to look at adding more artwork to the town and an attractive entry sign to Troutman from the south.
Wyatt said another mural is being planned for the east side of the T-Town Jewelry and Pawn.
♦ Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson plans to use some of her budget to purchase more grapevine deer and other decorations to continue expanding the town’s popular holiday display. The town will also replace worn banners displayed throughout the year.