North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper unveiled his recommended fiscal 2021-22 budget May 11 during his board’s regular monthly meeting at the Stone Center.
Like the FY 2020-21 budget, Hooper said the overall FY22 budget will be “austere, though it will be larger overall [by 6%] than the previous year’s budget,” which was $9.57 million. The FY22 budget balances at $10.14 million.
Hooper said that budget increases spending in areas that are “either hard for the town to control, like insurance costs for employees [rising 10%], or feel very strongly about doing—like cost of living increases for employees [2.5% proposed raise]—drive up the total.”
The budget proposes a 2.5% across-the-board cost of living pay hike for eligible town employees, totaling $109,000.
He said the budget does not use fund balance but will be offset by limited-duration American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars, which “carries some risk since we don’t know how long it will take the revenue sources ARP is meant to replace to recover.”
The good news, Hooper said, is that “we’ll still be able to make some progress towards our goals by responsibly using our capital reserve funds, proceeds from the sale of town-owned properties in FY21, funds that were saved when we received CARES Act dollars, and the FY21 tranche of ARP dollars. The fact that we have available cash to spend on these items means they don’t have to appear in the FY22 budget, making it easier to balance.”
Hooper’s general fund budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 calls for no new taxes or fees, leaving the property tax rate at 52 cents per $100 of property valuation. This equates to a $780 tax bill for a property owner who has real property of $150,000.
The proposed budget includes expected revenues of $7.16 million in the general fund and $2.98 million in the water and sewer fund. Expenditures in both these funds are planned be the same.
Hooper predicted that the town’s unassigned fund balance of $5.71 million might dip slightly to $5.44 million, which would still be 76% of the town’s general fund expenditures. The state requires this to be at least 8%.
The general fund budget includes two new police vehicles for $67,000 and a $34,000 increase in the planning and inspection department budget for more use of contracted employees. Planning Director Meredith Detsch has informed the town she plans to use maternity leave later this year.
The water/sewer budget calls for the second of five annual 2% rate increases for in-town water/sewer customers. The average monthly bill would be about $1.25 higher in FY22 and $5.86 higher in FY25, according to Hooper.
Wholesale customers would also see the second of two 9 cent per 1,000 gallon rate increases. This equates to a move from $2.19 to $2.28 per 1,000 gallons, still below Wilkesboro’s rate of $2.45 and Elkin’s $3.50, said Hooper.
The water/sewer budget includes the purchase of two medium-duty trucks, dredging near the Reddies River dam and the replacement of UV lights in the wastewater treatment plant’s disinfectant system.
A public hearing on the proposed budget was called for at 5:30 p.m. on June 8 at the Stone Center and online at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86878083957. The board must approve the new budget by July 1 to comply with state statutes.
Also on Tuesday, the board for public hearings at 5:30 p.m. on June 8 concerning:
• technical and procedural updates to town code concerning subdivisions and the town’s wireless communication ordinance to comply with the state’s new NCGS 160D requirements. The board approved updates to chapters 1 and 2 and the zoning ordinance on Tuesday; and
• updates to town code regarding demolition bond policy, which would change the schedule of fees to read “demolition permit $45 (bond equivalent to the cost of demolition project).”