Troutman Council passes 2019-20 budget with no tax or water/sewer rate increases
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council on Thursday unanimously passed “a balanced budget in a town experiencing growth and prosperity,” according to Town Manager Justin Longino.
The budget, which forecasts an 11 percent increase in revenues because of the community’s rising commercial and residential growth, has no increases in taxes or water and sewer rates.
Longino thanked Finance Director Steve Shealy and the staff for its hard work to “accurately project expenditures, being conscious of their spending, and managing their respective departments in a manner that allows us to accomplish the maximum amount of progress within the set parameters of our revenue, which is primarily through taxes from the residents of the Town of Troutman.”
Referring to former State Treasurer Harlan Bowles book “The Keeper of the Public Purse,” Longino said, “The Town Council and the staff are indeed the keepers of the public purse for the Town of Troutman. We take this job seriously and make our decisions based on this line of thinking.”
Longino said 137 homes were added to the tax rolls in the past fiscal year, along with several new businesses. “While always cognizant of economic ups and downs, staff sees this growth and expansion continuing on the horizon,” he said.
Several items in the budget will help begin implementation of the Troutman Strategic Master Plan, including funding for streetscape and downtown improvement projects, acquisition of property for the town’s Lytton Street development vision, and economic development projects.
The budget also increases the amount the town will add to capital reserve funds for industrial recruitment, facilities, economic development, and greenways.
To continue its focus on the town’s health and safety, the budget also includes the purchase of two new police vehicles to replace two with over 100,000 miles of wear and increasing maintenance costs. A new public works truck will replace one with over 200,000 miles to ensure that the employees can continue to provide around-the-clock maintenance, water, and sewer services the community needs.
The budget also includes additional funds to continue the buildout of the ESC Park master plan. This year the park added two volleyball courts, a disc golf course, and the soon-to-be constructed splash pad.
“We have a lot to do in Troutman to continue the level of service that everyone has come to expect,” said Longino. “We also have a lot of work to do to make our vision (in the Strategic Master Plan) a reality. I am looking forward to using this budget as a tool to make these ideas come to fruition.”
During the public hearing, only one citizen, Jim McNiff, questioned the budget. McNiff asked council members if the fund balance, currently at about 32 percent, was sufficient to prompt a repeal of a 5 cent property tax hike instituted in 2016 to replenish it after unexpected costs and expenditures.
After the close of the public hearing, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel, subbing for the absent Mayor Teross Young, explained that the council’s goal was to reach the 50 percent level in fund balance, which acts as a “savings account” for the town.
Henkel also noted that achieving the town’s strategic vision, continuing economic development and downtown improvements, and meeting rising operating expenses as the town grows costs money. He asserted that the town must save to prudently to prepare for growing future needs.
Adding that the town was lucky that its revenue growth offset the need to raise taxes as other local municipalities have, Henkel said the town was not acting haphazardly but with the stated goal of enhancing life for its citizenry and building the town’s commercial and business sector.
STREET REPAVING BID AWARDED
The council voted 5-0 to award the 2018 Street Improvement Project to low-bider Carolina Paving of Hickory, which estimated the project cost at $1,025,060. Council voted to expend $850,000 on construction costs for this project last year, and small cuts to part of the original project scope should bring the price down to around $900,000, including additional engineering, inspection, and other associated costs, according to Longino.
The roads to be repaved include Georgie Street and Trace Court, Elliot Drive, Massey Street, Julian Place (southern end), Winter Flake Drive (about 200 feet near entrance), East Thomas Street, Barndale Drive, Garden Street, Rimmer Farm Road, and Rumple Street (one deteriorated lane on the southern portion since other lane was recently repaved).
Chief Wesley Morris of the Troutman Fire Department reported that demolition was nearly complete inside the old firehouse building and exterior demolition will soon begin. The staff is currently using a house next door to the fire station as its temporary base during construction. The department is currently interviewing and testing 15 candidates for three full-time firefighting positions, with a possible three additional firefighters being hired if Iredell County commissioners pass the current budget proposal this month. Morris hopes the new employees will be on the job in early August.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Assistant Store Manager Chris Vasile (below) accepted a certificate of appreciation from the town for its Lowe’s Heroes project to complete the kitchen at the ESC Park Pavilion. The store provided new cabinetry and hardware, a commercial sink, plumbing supplies, installation services, and electrical work.
Council member Sally Williams read a letter from the council to the Iredell County Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors thanking it for the generous contribution to complete funding of the splash pad at ESC Park. With contracts signed and a start date to be determined in the next week, construction will begin soon, with the project expected to take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.
Maj. Eric Henderson of the Mooresville Police Department thanked the town and the police department for its support after the recent loss of K-9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon. Henderson extended his department’s “sincere gratitude” during a “tough time for all of us.” He commended the professionalism and outstanding work of Troutman officers in their service to Mooresville.
Interim Police Chief Darrin Payne (above left) presented a plaque to Officer Devin Bentley (above, second from left) in recognition of his completion of School Resource Officer Certification, which required 43 hours of training and classwork. Payne also introduced three new part-time officers: Bryant Early, Zach Johnson, and Kevin Sherard.
The American Legion Post 401 in Troutman was honored on the occasion of the organization’s centennial celebration of its founding in 1919 by World War I veterans. The group is committed to helping area veterans, active military personnel, and area youth. Bob Klatt, Ralph Dagenhart, and Matthew Weber (pictured above) accepted the honor on behalf of the post.
The council retroactively recognized May as Lupus Awareness Month, presenting a certificate to the local Lupus Support Group facilitator Myrah Lykes (above, center) and two group members. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Collier Enrichment Center at 110 West Allison Street in Statesville.
The council unanimously approved:
► Adding a 5 percent administrative fee for an engineering review of construction plans by the Planning and Zoning Department.
► A budget amendment for the police department related to the Back the Blue 5K funds collected. This included a $7,000 donation from race proceeds to the N.C. Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) nonprofit organization.
► An interlocal agreement between Iredell County and the town regarding grass mowing and grounds upkeep on fields in ESC Park used by Iredell County Recreation Department programs.
► Cameron Church from Lake Norman High School will be interning with the town on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer.
► Duke Power will begin installing lights on the northern part of the greenway soon and will continue south in sections until the lighting project is complete.
► Construction of the sidewalk in front of Walgreens and the ABC Store and then turning down Goodman Road to Lytton Street will begin on Tuesday.
► The Public Works Department received “compliant” and “above compliant” marks during its recent state inspection.