06/15/08 — Mount Olive town budget hearing to be held June 23

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Mount Olive town budget hearing to be held June 23

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 15, 2008 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A new pay and job classification plan, restructured water/sewer rates and efforts to slow the hemorrhaging of dollars going to pay fuel bills are key components of the Town of Mount Olive's budget proposal.

What is lacking is a tax increase -- the rate will remain at 59 cents per $100 valuation.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Monday, June 23 at 7 p.m. in the courtroom at Mount Olive Town Hall. The budget is expected to be adopted by commissioners following the hearing.

The budget includes $2,930,751 in the general fund and $2,338,705 in the water/sewer fund. Other budget funds include $165,778 in Powell Aid, $104,828 for the Mount Olive Airport and $79,805 for the Waylin Fire District.

All of those funds combine for a total budget of $5,619,867.

Town Manager Charles Brown said the town had anticipated balancing the budget with a drawdown of about $30,000 from its some $1.2 million fund balance because of a projected decease in local sales tax revenues.

"The numbers we see show retail sales down except for Wal-Mart," Brown said.

He noted that Wayne County has three Wal-Marts.

The local sales tax revenues had been anticipated to be about $60,000 lower than this past year.

However, Brown said it now appears the revenues might be closer to what it was last year -- meaning the town will not have to dip into its savings.

Also helping the town's bottom line is that it has been able to pay off its debt on several large piece of equipment.

The water/sewer budget is up by about $400,000 as the result of the new water/sewer rate adjustments. Under the new rates, customers pay based on the amount of water they use.

Customers, in effect, will be able to control their water bill by conserving water.

Brown said the reason that water/sewer department expenses are up because of the town's new wastewater treatment plant. The increased cost reflects the debt service on the project as well as costs associated with operating and staffing the new plant.

The budget also implements a new salary and job classification plan.

Brown said the plan would cost about $45,000 over the normal cost-of-living increases of about 2.5 percent that employees have been averaging or the past several years.

"Not everybody got a big pay adjustment," he said. "What we found out, and this is what I expected before we did the study, is that at the upper end of the pay scales we were not that far off, but at the lower end we were substantially out of kilter and that turned out to be the case."

The increases range from 3.5 percent for the higher end up to about 11 percent on the lower end of town salaries.

"Basically we raised the entry-level salary to the hiring level for those position," Brown said. "People who needed the money the worst are probably the ones who got the most."

One area that has been hard to predict is fuel costs.

"We do not know what fuel prices will be," he said. "We have a contingency line item for fuel costs overrun."

However, Brown is hopeful that efforts that began in April will help the town cut is fuel consumption by at least 15 percent.

Brown told town employees that April would be used as a baseline for determining fuel consumption. Employees were asked to voluntarily cut fuel usage by 15 percent. The actual reduction was 16 percent --except for the police department.

"They do not have a lot of leverage," Brown said.