Tryon mayor’s observations

Published 8:33pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To the editor:

Recently the Town of Tryon Council voted to raise ad valorem (property) taxes by 2.5 cents or $25.00 per $100,000 of property value.

Needless to say, this has led many citizens to ask “why?” and “why now?” Please read the paragraphs below for the answer to those questions as well as a few others concerning the finances of the Town of Tryon.

To see the full picture, we must look back to early 2001 when it was discovered that Tryon was in serious trouble financially.

The 2001 audit revealed that Tryon had spent in the vicinity of $1.6 million plus dollars and had accumulated an unknown debt and inability to pay its creditors.

The town had been robbing Peter to pay Paul and had not increased fees, taxes, or rates for years. The following is a recap of the debt I inherited in December of 2001 when I was sworn in as your mayor.

Powell Bill Fund (NCDOT) (12-17-2001): – $252,625

Tryon Fire Department Funds (12-17-2001): – $322,260

Fund Balance (12-17-2001) : – $450,390

Emergency generators (12-17-2001) : – $226,728

Borrowed to meet day-to-day expenses (12-17-2001): – $110,000

Owed engineer on generators (12-17-2001): – $12,529

State Grant funds for Eastside Sewer (12-17-2001): – $36,792

Unpaid withholding to the government (12-17-2001): – $4,000

TOTAL OWED

$1,415,324

We were so far in the red that the State of North Carolina considered taking over as stewards of Tryon’s finances.

In addition, the Town had sold the ABC building for $192,761 (8-21-1998) and the rights to our watershed for $80,000 (12-27-1999) for a total of $272,761. I can see no benefit that came to the Town for this sum of money.

As of early 2001, Tryon had overspent by $1,688,085, and the town was broke.

It has taken me and six different councils 12 long years to pay all of this money back and to rebuild the fund balance to a little more than 24 percent.

We have been good stewards of the tax monies, and we were able to cut the tax rate by two cents in the past. We must continue our budget efforts since the State of North Carolina has established a 64 percent fund balance as the ideal for towns our size. I am committed to working toward this goal.

The aforementioned are the reasons that we were so far in the red. Pre 2001 councils did not raise taxes and fees, and the Town of Tryon slowly slid into near insolvency.

It has taken us 12 years to dig out of this morass.

I now have people telling me that we should not have raised taxes. Unfortunately, however, the State of North Carolina has notified us that our hold harmless funds, which have been a part of our budget for years, will be cut by 50 percent ($45,000) this year and completely eliminated next year. That will be a loss from our budget of around $90,000 or about a 6-cent tax increase.

In good conscience I cannot support taking monies from the fund balance to balance our budget. Doing this type of dance around a budget is how we nearly became insolvent in 2001.

I would be irresponsible to support such a dangerous and foolish idea.

– J. Alan Peoples, Tryon mayor

 

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