06/26/08 — Walnut Creek Council OKs budget; no tax increase

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Walnut Creek Council OKs budget; no tax increase

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on June 26, 2008 1:46 PM

The Walnut Creek Village Council approved its 2008-09 budget Wednesday, one that does not include a property tax increase or a water rate increase.

Council members met last week to discuss ways to cut down on the village's proposed $934,468 spending plan, which they succeeded in doing. The approved budget totaled about $50,000 less than the proposed, coming in at $878,504.

One step taken to reduce the budget was cutting the contingency fund from $68,588 to $28,145.

State law mandates that municipalities maintain a certain amount of money for unforeseen costs. But state officials have lowered the recommended threshold from 8 percent to 5 percent, allowing officials to keep less in reserve.

The council also decided to do away with the capital improvement budget, which they said serves essentially as a savings account. The money from that line item went into the contingency fund.

Village Administrator Lou Cook also worked to trim other costs, including salary adjustments -- which were cut from $8,000 to $5,000 -- and village relations and council members' expenses -- which were each $4,000 and now come in at $2,000 apiece.

In the utility fund, numbers were also reduced. The proposed utility budget included $301,750 in spending. The approved budget reduced that figure to $284,750 by taking out $62,725 that would have been used to construct and remove iron from Well No. 5, but council members decided to hold off on the well until the next fiscal year. But the council decided to go ahead with the permit process for the well -- a process that will likely take five months but will only have relatively minor costs associated with it -- and keep $32,000 in there so that next year they will be prepared to begin work.

In the meantime, if a well fails during the next year, council members said they will have to rely on the other one. If both wells fail, then the village will have to buy its water from the county, a mechanism that is already in place just in case, Cook said. That, however, would cost residents more.

"We can open the Wayne County line, but it's expensive," Cook has said. "It is much cheaper for us to provide our own water."

On the other hand, $42,725 was added to the utility fund for a SCADA system -- a warning system for the lake since the existing system is outdated.

Also, revenues for the utility fund were cut from $102,000 to $85,000 because council members didn't want an increase in water rates.

Ad valorem tax revenues, which come directly from the state, aren't expected to be as high as first thought. In the proposed budget, the tax was expected to come in at $556,180, but Cook believes it may be closer to $503,674 which made the budget trimming that much more necessary.

A large part of the $878,504 spending plan -- $419,674 -- comes from administrative costs that include village manager, clerk, police and maintenance employee salaries with a small cost-of-living increase; general insurance and bonds; telephone; postage; office supplies; employee benefits; donations to non-profit or community organizations and programs; and travel expenses for council members.

The expenditures also include $32,000 for electricity for service at town hall, the wastewater pumping station and for all the light poles throughout the village. More than $95,000 also is included for debt service on the town hall; $173,500 for services including fire, garbage, recycling, composting and mosquito control; and $55,000 for lake maintenance.

At Wednesday's meeting, Cook brought to the attention of council the failure of a pump that flushes sewage to Goldsboro for treatment.

"We are operating on one pump," he said. "It's doing OK. It's holding its own."

But, the village will have to repair it soon. Cook said they haven't received an estimate on the cost to repair yet.

Council member Kathy Daniels also reminded the council that two lift stations "are in desperate need of an overhaul" that will cost about $1 million per station to fix.

"It's going to be a bullet that we're going to have to bite," she said. "I just wanted everyone to keep that in their minds."