02/16/06 — Mount Olive Town Board trying to avoid tax hike

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Mount Olive Town Board trying to avoid tax hike

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 16, 2006 1:50 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Members of the Mount Olive Town Board are trying to find ways to keep from having to raise taxes, they said this week.

That means some user fees might go up next year, and the town might have to start charging for some things that used to be provided free.

The sewer rate, which is now $23 per month for most users, will increase to $27.50 in March to help pay for the new regional sewer system. The federal government offered to give the town a $4 million grant if a bond issue was approved. The government also told town leaders that sewer revenue would have to be high enough to pay off the debt. The board had already agreed last year to raise the sewer bills.

But more money is going to be needed, town manager Ray McDonald told the board during a budget work session Wednesday.

"We're close to running a deficit," he said. The general fund budget developed so far for fiscal 2007 shows a $115,594 deficit, McDonald said.

The need for supplies has doubled, McDonald said, because the town has accepted more buildings for upkeep, including the old Carver School building and the former Boys & Girls Club, as well as the new restrooms at Westbrook Park.

The town has been charging $70 a day for use of the former Boys & Girls Club, but is losing money at that rate, McDonald said. The rate should be $125, he said.

He told the board members if they don't raise some of the rates and implement some new charges for services, the town is "going to go into the hole."

"For years we took general fund money to subsidize other programs," McDonald said.

But now, he said, the town needs to come up with $100,000 in new money to make things work.

McDonald said the board has asked him not to seek a tax hike, and that he is trying to keep from asking for one.

McDonald said people have already started calling to reserve space at the park for special events like birthday parties and family reunions. He suggested that the town start charging for these special reservations, too.

The following are some of the additional costs for the coming year:

*The town will need about $100,000 to build a retention pond for Crest Drive area to prevent flooding.

*The town will pick up the tab for $20,000 worth of street resurfacing work in the 200 block of Center Street, a cost that was not covered by a grant received for the improvements done there.

*If the town board approves new apartments for Bell Avenue, it will cost $100,000 to install water and sewer lines to the new complex.

*In another 18 months, the town will have a regional sewer plant that will require a minimum of nine new employees to man it 24-hours a day.

*No one is sure how much new communication equipment will cost when Wayne County upgrades its system to help towns like Fremont and Mount Olive get signals to all the current dead zones.

*Public Works needs about $20,000 worth of new radios. If the director wants to reach one of his men who is on a garbage truck, he has to go out and find him.

*The police department needs to replace worn out cars. One has been out of service six months and Chief Emmett Ballree said he had to spend $900 to have another fixed recently.