Town Council gets first look at proposed budget for 2017-2018
BY DEBBIE PAGE
During their pre-agenda meeting on Monday afternoon, Troutman Town Council members looked over the town's proposed 2017-2018 budget, which will see a significant dip in the fund balance but does not call for tax or fee increases.
Town Manager Justin Longino detailed a list of budget requests in the draft fiscal year’s spending plan for council’s consideration, asking for their input.
Longino will make adjustments based on council members' feedback and “present a balanced budget that uses the taxpayers’ money in the most effective manner possible” at the budget meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. on May 22.
Finance Director Steve Shealy said the town’s fund balance account will probably end this fiscal year at just under 22 percent of the annual budget, with about $775,000 left in the town “savings account.” This percentage represents a drop from nearly 37 percent in 2015 and just over 30 percent in 2016.
Though the state mandates municipalities keep a minimum fund balance of 8 percent, it unofficially recommends a balance of 20 percent or higher for better financial security.
One-time expenses this past year, including the ABC store land purchase, a court settlement, street repairs, and greenway matching funds, drained about $445,000 from the fund balance. However, about $288,000 was added thanks to a contingency appropriation in the current budget, CATS School Resource Officer revenue, and unused funds from the Lytton Street project.
Council member Paul Henkel expressed some concern at the decline. Though Shealy recommended only adding $100,000 to the fund balance this coming year, Henkel requested that the $156,000 appropriated for savings last year be repeated.
“I think that’s a good number, as best as we can afford it, to return each year until we can get back up. We’re still within what the Local Government Commission recommends, let me make that clear, but I’d still like to see us build back on that at least some,” said Henkel.
The council is considering two new funds, a Citizens Endowment Fund to partner on community projects and a Community Advocacy Grant that could be awarded to a local organization that advocates for specific humanitarian rights within the community.
Council members seemed unsure about whether to do these as line items or capital reserve funds or whether to combine them. Later, when talk of a significant matching grant program to improve business facades in downtown was discussed, a possible tie-in to these funds was also considered.
Longino also requested $2,000 for composing a town mission statement and set of guiding values and principles for the staff and council to use as a basis for making decisions. This was attempted by staff and council in the past but never finished.
Henkel suggested that before money was spent that they try to complete this work themselves. Mayor Teross Young agreed that was the best approach.
The council also heard a presentation from Bill Thunberg of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission (LNRTC). He provided an update on the LNRTC's work on behalf of Troutman, including the upcoming ICATS Park-N-Ride option in Troutman to connect residents to commuter buses in northern Mecklenburg County.
Thunberg also detailed current planning in progress with Town Planner Erika Martin on Troutman projects, including Lytton Street and a Southwest Bypass Study.
Martin also suggested that fellow LNRTC members Iredell County and Statesville also be asked to partner in this bypass study since both have interests in it. The town has applied for a grant seeking reimbursement of $100,000 of the study’s $125,000 cost.
“I think Troutman is doing really well through this process, and you have a lot to feel good about in regards to the transportation funds that you are receiving in the community and how your projects are standing up,” said Thunberg.
Troutman is being asked to pay LNRTC $5,000 this upcoming year for its continued assistance.
EXPANDED AND NEW POSITIONS
The council is also being asked to fund the part-time code enforcement officer position during the next fiscal year. The Centralina Council of Government’s officer has already begun work under a recently approved two-month contract and is “already working hard” to rectify problem areas, according to Martin.
Longino is also asking that several current positions be expanded. Planning and Zoning is requesting that its current intern’s hours be expanded to 20 hours per week this summer and up to 30 hours this fall through May 2018. Intern Shannon Reidlinger would take on additional duties in Public information (social media, newsletter, etc) and in Planning and Zoning with the increased hours.
Staff is also requesting that Parks and Recreation Coordinator Emily Watson’s hours be expanded from 25 to 35 hours with the increased work associated with the pavilion and rentals as well as to provide time for grant-writing to obtain funding for future phases of park expansion.
Henkel asked Longino and Shealy to investigate the town’s health insurance implications under the Affordable Care Act before these hour extensions are considered.
ESC Park upgrade requests being considered include grills, a water fountain, a foam base on the playground, and installation of the wagon wheel pattern of engraved bricks near the pavilion.
The council will also consider an increase in Industrial Recruitment funds for the Troutman Business Council and other projects, as well as for downtown enhancement, including repaving the Depot and Wagner Street parking lots, wayfinding signage, facade grants, and murals.
Police Chief Matthew Selves is requesting three new Ford Explorers to replace two 2007 Crown Victorias with more than 115,000 miles each and a 2009 Tahoe with 125,000 miles. All are suffering from a variety of costly maintenance issues as well as paint failure, Selves said. The town would put the Crown Victorias up for auction, but retain the Tahoe as a backup vehicle.
The three flex-fuel SUVs, fully outfitted for police work, will cost $120,000, which Shealy wants to buy outright. The council could opt to pay it off in three annual payments of $40,000 per year to free up funds for other needs.
Selves justified the choice of roomier SUVs to accommodate the increased equipment that police must wear as well as more equipment within the vehicle. He also cited increased officer comfort and safety, better fuel mileage, and excellent handling in their police work.
Council members are also considering several capital outlay purchases. They will evaluate the 311 work-order system, which is being used on a trial basis to determine whether to continue it next year at their next budget meeting.
They are also considering several other Public Works-related purchases, including a necessary upgrade to SCADA, which monitors the water system, and a sewer camera purchase to examine and diagnose sewer issues.
DEPOT LITTLE LIBRARY
The council also unanimously voted on the location for the Troutman Depot Little Library being suggested by J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Branch Library branch manager Rebeca Lopez. They chose the north side of the depot shelter area in a mulched area.
They will vote on the Little Library itself after seeing design and color recommendations from Lopez at Thursday night’s regular meeting. Council members want the Little Library to blend aesthetically with the Depot as the one at ESC Park does with the pavilion.
At Thursday night’s regular meeting, Town Council Members will also:
• Consider approval of the Town of Troutman “Adopt-A-Street Program.”
• Present the Citizen of the Year (Layton Getsinger) and Organization of the Year (The Sign Shop) honors.
• Proclaim next week as National Police Week (May 14 - 20)
• Recognize donors of police equipment.
• Spotlight South Iredell High School students and staff accomplishments.
• Accept an $8,500 donation from Get Fit Iredell for sunshades for the playground at ESC Park.
• Consider non-contiguous annexation and rezoning (Residential Agriculture to Mixed Residential) requests for a 75.1 acre parcel on Crosstie Lane, which is being considered for a large mixed business/residential project by a large developer.
• Vote on a Board of Adjustment appointment.
• Consider appointment of 2 Town Council members and 3 Planning and Zoning Board members to a Unified Development Ordinance Task Force.