No tax or fee increases for Forest City

Council unanimously passes new budget
Jun. 18, 2013 @ 08:42 AM

With no tax increase or fee increases for its residents, Forest City Town Council unanimously adopted its 2013-14 fiscal year proposed $29,838,899 budget during the regular business meeting Monday night.

The budget is balanced with  a $.29 per $100 property valuation. The budget is slightly less than last year's $31 million, reduced by $1,174,211 or 3 percent.

The budget calls for a 1.7 percent cost of living raise and a merit raise that would begin in January 2014.

Before the unanimous vote on the budget, council discussed several budget items.

Council agreed, at the recommendation of City Manager John Condrey, not to proceed with any capital item purchases until after the State approves its budget. 

Condrey explained this will allow the Town the ability to determine if there are significant budget reductions from the State that could impact the Town's budget.

Condrey said he will prepare a document in the future regarding the impact the State budget has on the town when it is passed.

Among capital expenditures discussed Monday was the purchase of a new Quick Response Vehicle for the fire department.  It will replace a 30-year-old 1983 Brush Unit. 

The new vehicle will be capable of making an initial attack on a fire and containing the fire until further responding resource arrive. It will save the town money in operation and maintenance expenditures. 

Although the purchase has been approved in the new budget, Fire Chief Mark McCurry said he is hoping the fire department will receive a $50,000 grant to offset the cost of the $140,000 for the new vehicle.

The purchase will be contingent upon the grant funding. If the town doesn't receive the grant in the 2013-14 budget, the purchase will be put on hold until next year.

In a surprising discovery last Thursday, the town learned the water and sewer grant funding from the North Carolina Rural Center for Horsehead, Inc. will not cover the $39,300 in costs for the Riverstone Wastewater Treatment Plant equipment to service Horsehead.

Although the costs were budgeted, staff thought the grant would cover the costs of the new equipment and would not have to be spent.

But the Rural Center said the expenditures at the waste water plant are different than the original grant and its board of directors will have to make a decision on using the grant money. They will meet at the end of June.

Condrey said the process is underway to write an amendment for the Rural Center asking for use of the grant money. If it is not covered, council will have to pay the cost of the new wastewater treatment plant in the near future.

Horsehead plans to be up and running by Sept. 15 and the plant will have to be constructed and ready to go by then.

In a brief discussion regarding solid waste fees, Condrey recommended the board consider a 4.1 percent increase in order to for the town to "break event" in the service. 

According to Finance Officer Julie T. Scherer, waste collection revenues are at $1,015,000 with expenditures at $1,057,000. The 4.1 percent increase would cover the $42,000 difference in revenues and expenditures.

The increase in the fees would be $.66 per month on the charge per roll-out container for residents and $1.62 per month on a small business sharing dumpster. 

On a 3-2 vote with Council members David Eaker, Shawn Moore and Chris Lee voting against the motion, the fees will remain the same.

Council members Dee Dee Bright and Steve Holland voted for the increase. At last week's meeting, Bright asked Condrey about the differences in the expenditures and revenues in the department.

Also, Council agreed to require the Forest City Youth Football Program to present an audit of its budget to the town before the town releases any funds appropriated in the 2013-14 budget due to an embezzlement issue last year.