Haw River’s town manager proposed no tax increase, but a hike in some of the town’s fees, when he presented his budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the town council last week.
Manager Sean Tencer suggested to council members on May 24 that the town increase its sanitation fees by 2.9 percent to match an increase in the collection rate that the town is charged, and raise water and sewer rates by 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The increases in the latter two rates, he said, are part maintaining the water and sewer budget’s fund balance and part keeping up with rate increases from the city of Burlington, set to raise its own rates by 1 percent, which provides Haw River and other municipalities with water and sewer services.
For residents using 2,000 gallons a month, the rate increase will appear as 29 cents more for water and 91 cents more for sewer, with each additional 1,000 gallons costing 15 cents and 62 cents more, respectively.
Building up the water and sewer budget’s savings, known also as its fund balance, has remained a pressing issue for the town since that department, whose budget is kept separate from the general budget, is designed to be self-sufficient and operate as an enterprise fund.
The general fund balance is likewise a long-standing concern as the town seeks to build up enough savings to meet standards set by the Local Government Commission. The commission, established by the General Assembly in 1931, oversees the finances of each of the state’s municipalities and has the final say on whether a local government can apply for a loan, such as to purchase capital equipment like vehicles or to carry out large projects.
Proposed budget includes no new staff
While Tencer’s budget didn’t propose any new staff – an additional position requested by the fire department was declined – it did give a promotion to a public works department employee, making them overseer of both their department’s employees and those in the water and sewer department.
Town staff would also be given a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, and mid-point pay raises that were deferred from last year’s budget were restored.
Manager asks for $90K in new financial software
While replacement software for the town’s administrative staff will ultimately total $90,000, Tencer explained that a five-year loan will have the town paying out $18,000 annually for the next several years.
The current software, he said, has become “very problematic” since the town purchased it at least 15 years ago. In addition to having become outdated, the manager said that the program has begun to present organizational issues for staff, resulting in extra time spent compensating for glitches.
Tencer also proposed contracting with a code enforcement firm for $15,000, a suggestion that council member Steve Lineberry questioned, asking whether town staff could carry out the task in-house. Meanwhile, the council is scheduled to hear from representatives of the firm at its June 7 meeting.
The special meeting called for this week’s budget presentation and discussion came ahead of a public hearing scheduled for Monday night. The council is expected to vote then on a budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.