North East to main­tain prop­erty tax rate, cut spend­ing

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— Town of­fi­cials ex­pect to spend 6 per­cent less un­der the pro­posed fis­cal year 2017 gen­eral fund bud­get, while also mak­ing use of some of the nearly $200,000 left over in this year’s bud­get to buy equip­ment and fund con­struc­tion projects.

Di­rec­tor of Finance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Ken Natale pre­sented the pro­posed $2.85 mil­lion gen­eral fund bud­get dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing last week, though no mem­bers of the pub­lic of­fered com­ments.

In his pre­sen­ta­tion, Natale noted that due to a com­bi­na­tion of op­er­a­tional sav­ings and un­used money in the town’s con­tin­gency fund, North East will be able to fund some fis­cal year 2017 re­quests from the fis­cal year 2016 bud­get.

That in­cludes about $11,000 in po­lice equip­ment, $1,800 to pur­chase a gen­er­a­tor and $27,000 in equip-

NORTH EAST

ment for the parks and recre­ation de­part­ment. These dol­lars will also fund $40,000 of the $100,000 in bud­geted ren­o­va­tions to the Jack­son House and $8,000 for park walk­ing path resur­fac­ing, Natale said.

“The rea­son for set­ting this (the con­tin­gency funds) aside is so that there’s some cush­ion in the bud­get for any un­ex­pected changes in cost or in rev­enues,” he said.

Any con­tin­gency fund money not used dur­ing the fis­cal year can then be put to­ward cap­i­tal projects or other needs, Natale added. But be­cause the town has his­tor­i­cally had a lot of money left in this fund, Natale sug­gested that for fis­cal year 2017, the con­tin­gency money in the town’s gen­eral and en­ter­prise fund should be re­duced from a to­tal of $225,000 to $100,000.

While the money in the con­tin­gency fund will change next year, the town plans to main­tain its cur­rent prop­erty tax rate of 48 cents per $100 of as­sessed prop­erty. Be­cause this rate is above the con­stant yield rate of 47.17 cents, it is still con­sid­ered a tax in­crease by the state and will gen­er­ate an ex­tra $29,000 in rev­enue for the town, Natale said.

That tax in­crease trans­lates to an ex­tra $16.60 per year on a $200,000 prop­erty, Natale noted.

“We ob­vi­ously take the po­si­tion that we’re not go­ing to re­duce the in­come be­cause it costs more to run this busi­ness ev­ery year,” Mayor Robert McKnight said.

The town’s wa­ter fund will also see some changes un­der the pro­posed bud­get. Town wa­ter rates will see a 2 per­cent in­fla­tion­ary in­crease, which trans­late to an 80cent in­crease for in-town cus­tomers and a $1.69 in­crease for out-oftown cus­tomers on a min­i­mum bill. The bud­get also in­tro­duces a new $205 fee as­so­ci­ated with re­plac­ing the ra­dio trans­mit­ters on the new wa­ter meters if the prop­erty owner is found re­spon­si­ble for de­stroy­ing it, Natale said.

But town wa­ter rates may change in the fu­ture as the bud­get also in­cludes $25,000 for a pro­fes­sional eval­u­a­tion of the town’s rate struc­ture, Natale said.

“This is some­thing that re­ally should be done ev­ery 10, 15 years or so,” he said. “They’re go­ing to come in and eval­u­ate the cost of run­ning the wa­ter util­ity and what the user fees need to be set at in or­der to break even.”

Out­side of the wa­ter rates eval­u­a­tion, the bud­get also in­cludes $40,000 for an en­gi­neer­ing study on the lo­ca­tion of a new wa­ter tower, pos­si­bly along Red Toad Road, and $200,000 in de­ferred main­te­nance projects, Natale said.

Other ma­jor projects in­cluded in the pro­posed fis­cal year 2017 bud­get are $85,000 in en­gi­neer­ing fees to de­sign a se­cond floor for town hall and add a revet­ment to the north side of North East Com­mu­nity Park, about $19,000 to im­ple­ment a new grant pro­gram for out­side agen­cies and $400,000 to pur­chase a build­ing for the main­te­nance shop, Natale said.

The town ex­pects to see some sav­ings in other ar­eas though, Natale said. Re­tire­ments in the North East Po­lice De­part­ment will re­sult in $40,000 in sav­ings while switch­ing the em­ployee health plan from United Health Care to the Lo­cal Government In­surance Trust’s Health Co­op­er­a­tive will save an­other $28,000.

But the big­gest sav­ings could come from ter­mi­nat­ing the town’s con­tract with Sev­ern Trent En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices, which had op­er­ated North East’s wa­ter plant for many years, Natale said. Last year though, the town de­cided to hire its own staff to run the plant and Natale projects this will save the town at least $100,000.

The town board will vote on the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get at its June 8 meet­ing.

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