Tryon nears deadline to approve new budget; meeting June 29

Published 3:22 pm Monday, June 22, 2009

Tryon Town Council is taking next year&squo;s budget proposal to the wire with still no firm decisions on the tax rate, water rate increases, funding for the annexation lawsuit or funding for a new economic developer (EDC) position.

Council will hold a special meeting on June 29 at 10 a.m. to finalize and approve the budget. Officials said Tuesday that if council could not approve the budget on the 29th, the meeting would be recessed until the next day to approve the new budget ordinance. Counties and municipalities have until June 30 to approve their new budgets.

Much of a lengthy council meeting Tuesday centered around budget discussions. The tax rate recommendation from interim town manager Justin Hembree is at 48.35 cents per $100 of property valuation, but that figure could change depending on what council decides to fund.

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The proposed tax rate would be 1.16 cents higher than the town&squo;s estimated revenue neutral rate following the county&squo;s recent revaluation. The town&squo;s growth rate was approximately 1.25 percent annually since the last revaluation in 2001, putting the revenue neutral plus growth tax rate at 47.78 cents.

Council&squo;s discussions have been full of tough decisions this year, considering the town is looking at a 25 percent decrease in revenue next year from beer and wine taxes, a 15.42 percent decrease in utility taxes and a 40 percent decrease in revenue from the ABC board.

On Tuesday, council decided that the budget next year will include the purchase of an approximately $15,000 leaf machine. The town is going to try to spread those costs over two years, but it is unknown if that is possible yet.

Other discussions on Tuesday included whether the town wants to go to one day per week trash pick-up for residences. Some council members said in addition to the savings in gasoline and mileage, the employees would be freed up to do other duties, such as bring all leaf collection in-house. Currently, the town contracts out one of the two leaf pick-ups per year. The town will decide later if it&squo;s more beneficial to keep contracting that one time or bring it all in-house.

Other issues still on the table include whether the town will include funding to defend a lawsuit against the town&squo;s involuntary annexation decision last year. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for mid next month. The town spent approximately $76,000 defending against a lawsuit filed against the town and Tryon Country Club last year. Council agreed Tuesday to get a recommendation from the town&39;s attorneys on how much to budget.

The town is also awaiting a decision on a new EDC position. The town agreed earlier in the year to help fund the position with funding also from Tryon Downtown Development Association and the Tryon Tourism Development. Tryon&squo;s portion would be $12,000. Council members Roy Miller and Austin Chapman said Tuesday that whether the town needs the position is irrelevant considering it can&squo;t afford it this year. Council members Dennis Durham and Jim Scott along with Mayor Alan Peoples said they are in favor of the position because of the possibility the position could bring revenue to the town. That position would equal about 0.82 cents in the tax rate.

Miller said the town can&squo;t ask current employees to give up raises and needed capital equipment when they are adding a new position that costs money.

Council also discussed the need to replace a patrol car in the police department, but no member seemed in favor of that purchase unless the economy turns around later in the budget year.

Council has not offered opinions on how to restructure the water and sewer fund to bring in more revenue, but officials have said rates will have to increase because of&bsp; a decrease in usage and revenues this year. Hembree said Tuesday that he is splitting the water&bsp; and sewer department budgets to reflect true costs and has given examples of possible increases to help the funds pay for themselves, but council has not made any concrete decisions. No other increases are proposed, such as for garbage service.