06/25/10 — Fremont OKs spending plan

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Fremont OKs spending plan

By Laura Collins
Published in News on June 25, 2010 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Board of Aldermen approved its 2010-11 budget Tuesday by a 4-3 margin.

Board members Leon Mooring, W.T. Smith and Al Lewis voted to approve the budget and Leroy Ruffin, Annie Lewis and Harold Cuddington voted against it. Mayor Devone Jones broke the tie.

The $3.48 million budget contains no property tax increase but calls for a 5 percent increase in the town water rate and a 10 percent increase in the sewer rate. It also allows the board to adjust the rates at any point during the year.

"I understand the concerns and understand why some of the folks voted against the budget," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said. "It's tough times for residents, private businesses and also government. But it comes between cutting services or raising fees. If you're not going to cut services, you're increasing rates."

The 10 percent increase in sewer rates accounts for a 5 percent increase the city of Goldsboro placed on the town in July 2009 and the 5 percent increase the city is planning for this July.

Goldsboro processes Fremont's sewage.

The 5 percent increase in the water rate is significantly less than what the proposed budget originally called for. A proposed budget presented to the board in May called for a 17 percent increase in the water rate and an 11 percent increase in sewer fees. The new 5 and 10 percent increases did not create a balanced budget, so money will be moved from the general fund to the water and sewer fund to achieve that balance, McDuffie said.

"It's not ideal to have the general fund subsidize the utility fund, but it balanced the budget and it meets the requirements that the Local Government Commission requires. Hopefully, long-term, we can make the utility fund self-sufficient," he said.

The base water rate will remain the same at $14.25 for in-town residents. The rate per 1,000 gallons of water will increase from $2.99 to $3.25. The average household uses about 4,000 gallons of water per month. The increase would cost the average household about $1.04 more each month.

The budget drops the sewer base rate from $17.50 to $16.50, but increases the cost per 1,000 gallons used from $8 to $9.50. A home using 4,000 gallons of water each month would pay $5 more per month. The water and sewer increases combined would raise the average homeowner's bill by about $6 per month.

The budget also calls for a .5 percent pay increase for town employees. Full-time employees also get a one-time 1 percent bonus and part-time employees who work an average of 30 hours each week will get a $50 one-time bonus.

"I'm trying to make sure the employees get treated reasonably well, even in tough economic times, because when the times get better, they'll remember that," McDuffie said. "We have a really good work force here, and we want to keep them."

Six years ago the town had 23 full-time employees, now it has 14 full-time staff members. McDuffie said that although the staff is smaller, the employees are still providing the same services, except that recycling is now picked up every other week instead of every week.

Board members voted to not give themselves pay raises. Each board member is compensated $1,980 per year with the mayor receiving $2,640 annually.