- Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 April 2010 16:48
- Published on Wednesday, 28 April 2010 16:48
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With an election seven days away for three council seats, the sitting town council has its plate full. Revenues are projected down by $163,230 for the proposed 2010-2011 budget; someone is flushing diapers and children’s clothing, which is clogging the pump at the Stratford Pump Station at the expense of thousands of dollars and hundreds of staff man-hours; and the recently passed noise ordinance will to have to be repealed before tourist season begins or town businesses will suffer. These issues and others were discussed in council committee meetings and will be on the agenda for the town council’s May 13 meeting.
At the Tuesday Budget Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 22, Town Manager Val Foulds presented committee members with a draft budget for fiscal year 2011. Although this year’s budget continues on a downward economic spiral, no new taxes were included.
According to the draft budget, general fund revenues for the town will be down $163,230 from fiscal year 2009-10 and general fund expenses will be down $166,521, leaving the general fund with a surplus of approximately $3,000.
Notable on the revenue side, tax collections are expected to increase approximately $111,000 from real and personal property taxes. The increase is based on re-assessed real estate values, completed construction and permits issued for new construction. Also showing increases from last year are projections for meals taxes, communication sales taxes, permits and an $8,000 planning grant. According to Chief Financial Officer Joan Grant, actual collection rates have fallen off. She further noted there is a plan in place to increase collections.
Although business license revenue and motor vehicle fees remained flat, Foulds’ budget showed a significant $100,000 decrease in projected revenue from a controversial increase in sales tax on tobacco products passed last year by the council. Lodging taxes were down by $7,047, which reflects a decrease in tourists who stay overnight. Revenue from use of property; miscellaneous revenue, which includes sale of town owned land; grants for the police department and transfers in, which is payments from the town utility fund for administrative work performed, are all down. Other revenue items such as business license and motor vehicle fees remained the same.
On the expense or spending side of the projected budget, increases are expected in the areas of legal services; computer processing; public works; highways, streets, bridges and sidewalk, which will increase by $49,700; parking meters, buildings and grounds; and debt service. The increase in the parking meter category includes attendant salaries, lot repairs and new parking meters. A new category was added this year to the general fund expense side to cover a reorganization of personnel initiated by Foulds in the amount of $100,500.
The Utilities Project/Capital Expenditures fund will be short $155,867 with acquisition of a jet truck for Public Works and for Phase III of the sewer project. Projected funding required by the state for town schools is down $215,570, with a total of $1,757,850 projected. The School Board has yet to submit a budget to council and is expected to do so in May.
On a lighter note, Foulds reported the town has been removed from the Virginia Municipal League’s Insurance Watch List, which reduces insurance expenses.
After the budget presentation, council member Sparky Ridgely said the “staff in town deserves a lot of credit, most municipalities are in a lot more trouble.” Council member Karen Payne gave a “huge thank you to all the staff, particularly Val Foulds and Joan Grant, for presenting a realistic budget with no tax increase proposed.” Town Council will have an opportunity at the May council meeting to discuss changes to or adoption of the budget as proposed.
At the Economic Development committee meeting held Thursday, April 22, Gary Mitchell, Director of Planning and Zoning, presented a report on the status of the state application for implementation of Technology, Enterprise and Tourism zones. Preliminarily, there are 99 acres out of 500 acres in town that are targeted for new zoning. New businesses or current businesses that increase new permanent hires who locate in these zones will be able to qualify for state tax incentives. It is believed that the three new zoning categories will enable the town to be more competitive in attracting companies that are looking to relocate or start up. Mitchell and Foulds recommended the council adopt creation of the three zones as a matter of policy rather than adding the zoning designations to the Town Code. This would allow town staff the ability to negotiate individually with each business before presentation of an incentive plan to council for approval.
At the Thursday Public Works committee meeting Mitchell reported on the ongoing problems at the Stratford Pump Station, which services about 100 homes in Riverside Meadows. For the last year diapers have regularly clogged the system, resulting in thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours of repair. Recently, towels and children’s clothing have also been identified as responsible for clogging the station. The town has mailed letters to homeowners, but have not identified who is responsible. It is unclear whether the items are being flushed or are entering the system in another manner.
Also noted by Foulds is a concern that the 2010 census results will “show that we have increased our population and we will have to take over the roads” from VDOT. This will result in necessary increases to personnel and equipment for the Public Works Department.
At the Thursday Public Safety committee meeting the recently approved noise ordinance was the hot topic. The noise ordinance passed at the April meeting requires both businesses and individual citizens to obtain a conditional use permit when using a “loudspeaker for public announcements.” Not only is the language ambiguous, but both individuals and any business or organization in town are required to apply for a conditional use permit and to appear before both the Planning Commission and the Town Council for approval of the permit. According to Mayor Fred Rummage, with consensus from all committee members, “We don’t want to impose hardships on any business in town.”
The committee directed Foulds to prepare a resolution to repeal the new noise ordinance and reinstate the original noise ordinance, which council can adopt at its May meeting. The committee also agreed that Foulds should meet with Karen Payne to create a less cumbersome noise ordinance that separates residential noise concerns from concerns about businesses or organizations that may offer music, such as restaurants. All agreed that time is of the essence on this issue, as tourism season is around the corner.