05/27/12 — Mount Olive budget up slightly, but has no tax hike

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Mount Olive budget up slightly, but has no tax hike

By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on May 27, 2012 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town officials are taking one last look over the town's proposed 2012-13 budget before it comes up for approval in June.

The proposed $5,383,222 budget represents a $259,676 increase over the current spending plan.

Some additional revenue in the current budget comes from the property tax revaluation after the town board decided against lowering the tax rate of 59 cents per $100. A portion is used to fund a 2.5 percent pay raise for all town employees in January.

Town officials have discussed the possible lowering of the tax rate for next year. One cent on the tax rate generates $21,481.01 in revenue at the present tax base valuation of $214,810,054.

"It just didn't seem to be feasible, because we still needed to recover from the hard times we had seen in the last couple of years," Commissioner George Fulghum said.

He said that the budget was not as difficult to put together this year, because no employee cuts had to be made.

In November 2011, the town had 12 fewer employees than in 2009, including six employees who were laid off and six positions that were not filled.

"That is a struggle," Fulghum said. "It's just been one of the necessary evils. In a small town like Mount Olive, we can put a name and a face on every position."

Both revenues and expenditures are up in the proposed budget. The increase in expenditures in the proposed budget is mostly a combination of new equipment line items and open positions.

"There's five open positions. In all likelihood, two of those will be filled," Town Manager Charles Brown said.

The two positions that are the most likely to be filled are the full-time positions in the police department and in the water treatment department.

The town will decide if it needs to fill the new part-time position listed in the parks and recreation department depending on whether the intern position in department remains filled.

Commissioner Ray Thompson said one thing he would like to see is town employees receive at least small salary increases.

"The employees do a really good job in town. They work hard," he said.

Brown said the town board is trying to provide some extra cushion in several departments this year in case of emergencies, while also working to increase its fund balance for the future.

State law does not provide exact expectations for how fund balance reserves are set aside in the budget, he said.

"They say, 'Well, your fund balance is whatever you have left over at the end of the year.' Well, that's like saying I'm going to wait until the end of the year and whatever I have left over I'll put in a savings account. That's not terribly effective."

This will be the third year the town is budgeting the fund balance by removing the spendable revenue from the budget.

"And maybe it's just my mindset, but it's just easier for me to look at it on there," Brown said.

Previously, the town put cash reserves in an expense line item.

The town is also using some additional revenue to restore funding to the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce and the Mount Olive Historical Society back to their typical funding allotments before budget cuts were made last year -- $3,000 for the Chamber and $4,000 for the historical society, up from $1,500 each.

The additional money comes from $4,000 set aside in the current budget for Mount Olive College's athletic department, since the town's obligation for the soccer field lights has now been fulfilled.

Brown said town officials check the budget every month to make sure expenditures are in line.

"There are things that will be happening in this budget year that we simply could not account for revenue-wise because we don't know numbers yet," Brown said. "The new Sleep Inn (and Suites) is going to make an impact, not only on our property tax revenue, but on our water and sewer revenue. They're numbers we simply don't know. The nice side of that is it's additional revenue."

Town residents can go by the town hall during business hours to look over the proposed budget before a public hearing is held at the June 4 board meeting at 7 p.m.

After the budget is approved by the board, residents can go by and pick up their own copy of the budget for a copying fee.