06/29/04 — Budget bust -- no citizens, no quorum

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Budget bust -- no citizens, no quorum

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 29, 2004 2:00 PM

PRINCETON -- The Princeton town board held a hearing Monday night on its 2004-05 budget, but no one showed up to comment. In fact, not enough town commissioners were present to vote on it.

Three of the four town commissioners are required by law to vote on the budget, and two were absent. Walter A. Martin Jr., a Smithfield police detective, did not answer several telephone pages. The other official, Eddie Haddock, reportedly was on vacation.

The town board now will act on the budget during its July meeting at 7 p.m. next Tuesday in the Community Building. The meeting was set back one day to avoid a conflict with the long July 4 holiday.

Town Clerk Marla Ashworth had prepared a balanced budget that called for a 52-cent tax rate per $100 of valuation -- the same as last year. The board had held several budget workshops to discuss it.

Mayor Don Rains said the new budget was almost the same as the 2003-04 budget. The seven town employees will receive modest salary increases. The town's rescue squad also will get $1,500, or $250 more than requested. The library will get $4,000, or $1,000 less than it requested.

The town's revenues were estimated at $629,667, or $23,281 more than anticipated expenditures. That would leave the town with a fund balance totaling $321,108. Rains noted that $131,000 is state Powell Bill money and earmarked to repair drainage problems. The town is required to have about 8 percent of its budget in savings.

However, the town water and sewer fund lost $43,000 last year. But this year only a $3,000 loss was predicted.

The town board did pass three minor items for which only two commissioners, David Starling and Larry Withrow, and the mayor were needed to approve. The board:

*Approved a salary schedule with 25 pay grades, each with eight steps, for town employees.

*Passed an amendment to balance the 2003-04 budget. Mrs. Ashworth noted that town employees had 53 paydays because of leap year.

*Adopted a fixed asset policy for the town's buildings, vehicles and equipment.

A week earlier the board also passed a revised contract with EnviroLink, which operates its sewer plant. The new contract calls for a monthly fee of $15,919.38. The Bailey-based company would pay for all testing and chemicals for the plant.