05/31/06 — Officials say no new tasxes for Fremont

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Officials say no new tasxes for Fremont

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 31, 2006 1:54 PM

FREMONT -- What was a balanced budget for 2006-07 for Fremont became unbalanced Tuesday night -- but not by much.

Fine-tuning left the budget about $4,000 in the hole, Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said after the town board's budget workshop.

"We're close," McDuffie said. "The council expressed concerns, and I know we're close -- less than $4,000 off. I know we're all right."

The budget calls for no change in the current property tax of 65 cents. Water, sewer and electrical fees also will be unchanged.

McDuffie said the town's finances were much better than when he took office in June, 2004. At the time, he said, the town's general fund was $264,000 in the red. A big reason for the town's improvement has been a 30 percent hike in property tax, from 50 to 65 cents per $100 worth of property.

Mayor Devone Jones said the town has made great strides in straightening out its finances.

McDuffie said the general fund, water and sewer fund and electrical fund will be balanced when he presents the final budget to the six town aldermen and the public at the next regular board meeting June 21. By law, the budget must be balanced.

McDuffie said the budget would be nearly $3.4 million, including $1.6 million from the sale of electricity, $900,000 from water and sewer sales and $797,000 from property taxes. Other money will come from the fire district and debt service.

McDuffie said proposed expenditures in each area will mirror collections.

The thorniest issue the board debated Tuesday night was a pay raise for town employees. The board agreed on a 3.5 percent raise for everyone. Each employee will be evaluated for a possible merit raise in 2007-08.

The last merit raise for employees was in 2001, the town's finance officer, Tonya Engles, said.

McDuffie had proposed a 2.5 cost-of-living adjustment in July and a merit raise in January.

Alderman Billy Harvey stressed the need for the board to be fair in handing out raises.

"Every position in town is important," he said.

Alderman Leon Mooring asked if the latest round of sewer and water improvements would keep the budget in line. McDuffie said the problems are being identified as the lines are videotaped and manholes are inspected.

McDuffie said the videotaping and inspections should be finished in mid-June. Then the specifications for the repairs can be drawn up, bids obtained, a contract awarded and work done. He did not expect the work to start until late fall.

Fremont has spent almost $4 million in sewer line work -- new lines to Goldsboro and Eureka and repairs to in-town lines -- in the last five years.