The Elkin Board of Commissioners held its first budget session last week in Town Hall. The session was the first of two meetings commissioners will use to hammer out details pertaining to their 2014-2015 town budget.
“We are not proposing any rate increase on the water nor tax increase at this time. We went through all income and expense, and all capital expenditures,” said Mayor Lestine Hutchens. “The town parking lot is in the paving budget so far, which has to be there if we are to get the grant for the farmers market shelter.”
According to Hutchens, the projected water fund is showing a nominal net income as is the general fund. “The goal of this board is to increase the fund balance in both accounts to establish a better way to fund capital projects,” she said.
At the meeting, officials reaffirmed the town will no longer transfer money from the general fund to help pay for water fund expenses.
According to the town of Elkin:
• There is no property tax rate increase or water rate increase proposed in the upcoming budget.
• There will probably be additional changes to the proposed budget at the budget meeting to be held on May 22. But the town does not anticipate any proposed increases in property tax rates or to the water rate.
• Discussions are still under way as to what funding changes might be made to outside agencies (special appropriations).
• As the budget now stands, officials are projecting to increase the general fund balance by a small amount after reducing its balance over the past several years to pay for special projects and also to transfer necessary funding to the water and sewer fund. John Holcomb, finance director for the town, said, “For example, over the past 22 years, the general fund has transferred $3.5 million to the water and or water/sewer fund to meet water and sewer fund expenditure requirements. We cannot continue to do this. This has led to the larger than normal water rate increases customers have seen in the past few years.
• Town officials said there are still a number of projects that will not be undertaken in the proposed budget such as the building of a new fire station in the northern section of town (Elkin already owns the land), renovation to the Smith Phillips Building for a tourism and trails center, additional streets that need paving, and a solution of the Rock Façade building downtown such as building a deck, restrooms, etc.
• Town officials also are projecting a very modest profit in the water fund without the need to increase rates. “We have several large water projects on the horizon and need to begin building a water fund balance to help pay for these necessary repairs and improvements. As the mayor indicated in her comments, water rates must be at a certain level in order to make Elkin eligible for grants that might fund some of these future projects,” said Holcomb.
Special appropriation funding requested by outside entities are:
• Elkin Jaycees — $4,000
• Elkin Rescue Squad — $9,000
• Foothills Arts Council — $15,500
• Elkin Valley Trails Association — $25,000
• Surry County Economic Development Partnership — $17,500
• Northwest Regional Library — $85,868
Commissioners will meet on May 22 in a second budget session at Town Hall.
Last year, commissioners imposed a 10-percent property tax increase. The current tax rate of 55 cents per $100 of assessed value is the highest tax rate imposed by officials, per available records, surpassing the 1990 tax rate when the town had a rate of 54 cents, records show.
At last year’s budget sessions, commissioners agreed that the minimum water bill should rise by $1 from $14 per month to $15, which includes the first 2,000 gallons of water. The volumetric rate for each additional 1,000 gallons was increased to $6. On average, homeowners are paying about $30 more on the water rate.
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.