05/24/09 — Fremont to hold line on taxes and fees

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Fremont to hold line on taxes and fees

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 24, 2009 2:00 AM

Despite the slumping economy and declining revenues, Fremont officials are hopeful they will be able to hold the line this year on taxes and utility fees.

"There is no tax increase or tax decrease. There are no fee increases or decreases," Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said. "There are no changes in any of the fees, taxes or anything like that."

That means the town's 65 cents per $100 value property tax rate will remain the same for the 2009-10 budget, which is expected be about $3.6 million -- down just slightly from last year's $3.7 million spending plan.

Cut from the budget will likely be several capital projects the town had hoped to work on this year.

One of those that will be postponed is the purchase of a street sweeper. The town's current one, McDuffie said, is a 1983 model that it purchased, heavily used, from a racetrack.

"It's not in great shape at all," he said.

He also said they would be purchasing fewer radio-read water meters and receivers than they had originally planned. He explained that the devices allow for town workers to more quickly and accurately read residents' water meters.

And a third project that is being put on hold, McDuffie added, is the town's planned cemetery expansion.

"We will probably be out of useable space in about a year," he said.

But because of the tight budget, he continued, the board is likely to hold off on preparing an adjoining 3.2-acre lot -- a project likely to cost about $50,000.

"We are going to delay that for right now it looks like," he said.

Overall, though, he said he thinks this would be an acceptable budget.

"It's going to work," he said. "It's not something I'm excited about, but we're not looking to raise taxes or any utility fees. We're going to make it work."

In other news, the town board took action on two items Tuesday.

One, it approved the plans for the wastewater spray field, located off Davis Mill Road northeast of town. That means the only step left before putting the project out to bid is to get final approval from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He expects to hear something within the next 60 days.

"You never know what's going to happen, but we think we're going to get it approved," he said.

The other item acted on was a public hearing on a $101,000 grant-loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the purchase of a grapple truck -- basically a dump truck with a backhoe arm between the cab and the dump bed, McDuffie said.

Such a vehicle, he ex-plained, is something the town has looked at purchasing for at least a year to help load brush and other heavy items up to 3,000 pounds. It's a tool, he added, that both Goldsboro and Wilson have.

"It's more efficient, faster and decreases the possibility of worker injury," McDuffie said.

And with the USDA's help -- $45,000 grant, $56,000 loan -- he said purchasing the truck is now a "viable project."

The project's total cost is expected to be $101,316 with delivery likely in September.