Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Elon’s new annual budget gets council’s unanimous nod

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Elon’s town council has adopted a new annual budget that calls for nearly $11 million in outlays from the town’s general fund but holds the line on the municipality’s property tax rate.

The council ultimately voted 5-to-0 for this new spending plan on Tuesday after a topsy-turvy budget season that Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner had previously declared “one of the most difficult” he’s witnessed in his career.

In its broad strokes, the budget which the council approved is quite similar to a proposed spending plan that Roedner had originally pitched to the council in March. Like its earlier iteration, the adopted budget calls for increases in the town’s payroll expenses, including a 3-percent cost-of-living adjustment for the town’s full-time staff, a new position in the public works department, and the elevation of an existing part-time post to full-time status. Meanwhile, the new budget calls for about $900,000 in capital outlays – roughly a third of which are set aside to develop a new municipal skatepark.

In addition to these items, the town’s new budget also includes a number of other expenditures, whose exact cost has fluctuated over the past couple of months. These volatile outlays include health coverage for the town’s staff, which rose precipitously after Roedner presented his original budget to the council, as well as a bevy of compensatory increases, ranging from 1 to 7.5 percent for each of the town’s 67 full-time employees, that have emerged from a hired consultant’s newly-completed pay study.

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Despite these increases, the town’s new budget maintains the property tax rate at its current level of 35 cents for every $100 of value. The budget nevertheless includes a 5-percent hike in the town’s water and sewer fees to match a comparable increase in Burlington, which provides the smaller municipality with these two utilities. In the meantime, the budget contains a new, 3-percent tax on hotel and motels that Elon and three other local municipalities have decided to tack onto visitor accommodations within their own jurisdictions in order to bankroll initiatives that promote travel and tourism.

Before the council signed off on the new budget, councilman Quinn Ray reminded his colleagues that they hadn’t had much time to digest the aforementioned pay study’s recommendations. Ray went on to warn that, in passing the budget, the council was more or less taking it on faith that those recommendations are justified.

“We’re voting for [pay] grades [which came out of] the study they did,” he said, “but we don’t know how they came up with their numbers.”

Yet, these qualms didn’t seem to discourage councilman Randy Orwig, who made the motion to approve the budget with the pay study’s recommendations intact.

“I think there’s been a lot of hard work done [on the budget], and a lot of good work done,” the councilman said before the 5-to-0 vote for the budget. “Ultimately, I’m ready to move forward with this.”

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