Tryon Mayor outlines 2010 budget thoughts

Published 8:27 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To the Editor:

This is the first in a series of several info letters that I will be sending during the next few weeks. They will deal primarily with how I perceive the Town is faring with regard to the economy and the losses and belt tightening which we will have to face. This is by no means all inclusive. I will break the data into four categories. The first will be about energy savings, to be followed by vehicle savings, rent and lease income, and finally by a broad category of other topics. &bsp;

To illustrate that we have taken the budget process seriously, look at what has happened in the past eight years. Since I became Mayor in 2001, we have cut taxes twice, and during the most recent property reevaluation we held the overall tax as closely as possible to revenue neutral. Revenue neutral means that we actually collect very little more in taxes than the year before even though some people had property that increased in value while other property was valued at less. My example is that my property increased in value almost 30%. As a result of this reevaluation, I am paying more tax. The actual total of ad valorem (property) taxes projected to be collected for the next fiscal year (2010-2011) is projected to be less than this year (2009-2010).

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The Town has attempted to maintain the same level of services since I have been Mayor; however, we are now at a crossroads. We have some serious financial choices to make during the next two fiscal years. At the present level of services we will soon run a deficit. I cannot foresee our letting that happen; therefore, I am prepared to make some recommendations on how to achieve the goals of maintaining services as much as humanly possible while holding the line on taxes. The following are the suggested areas for some savings. Some of these I have implemented at both my home and in Town Hall, some of them are in the process of being reviewed by the council and the town staff, and several are on hold as we wait for utility companies to give us evaluations of where they think that we can create savings.

Many citizens are not aware that we lease the town property near the water plant as well as space in Town Hall, in the old fire department, and on the Town tower at Tryon Peak This saves us nearly 4 cents in the tax rate.

There are other areas where I think we can collect funds or achieve savings:

1-Last year I purchased and installed new CFL (compact fluorescent lights) bulbs in four offices that are used daily (5 days a week) by the town administrative staff. Thirty-six bulbs cost us approximately $110. We are saving over $260 per year. The new bulbs have already paid for themselves, and we now have a small savings daily. Recently I added CFLs for the outside night lights at Town Hall. Fire Chief Joey Davis did the same at the Fire Department last year with similar savings. I also purchased bulbs for the outside night lights for the Tryon Depot, and they are saving us money!

2-Here is a quick lesson on how to figure the cost difference of using a regular incandescent bulb as opposed to a CFL. A 100 watt bulb that burns for ten hours consumes 1 kilowatt ( 10 x 100watts =1000watts= 1KW). The kilowatt costs approximately six cents; thus a 100 watt bulb that burned for ten hours costs 6 cents.

A 100 watt incandescent bulb in an office for a week burns the following: 100watts x 10 hrs x 5days =5kw or about 30cents per bulb in the office.

Take the same 100 watts in a CFL and you get it for only 23 watts per hour X 10 hrs x 5 days = 1.15kw equals less than 8 cents per bulb in the office.

3-I have asked the Town Manager, Justin Hembree, to call Duke Power for a free audit that would give us a laundry list of ways to conserve during both the heating and air conditioning seasons.

4-I have asked for the cost of insulating the ceiling of the third floor of Town Hall. There is no insulation up there, and I believe that we can achieve a substantial savings by doing this. It worked in my home, and it will work in Town Hall.

5- We should look at utility companies and see if they have any matching funds to help save energy. In some places power companies are matching costs to install new ballasts and the new T-10 fluorescent lights. My understanding is that they both save energy and are green. There is a school system in Tennessee that upgraded all insulation, new storm or energy efficient windows, new fluorescent lights, heating and cooling timers and a plethora of other ways to save. They spent approximately 24 million dollars and are paying debt service with the yearly energy cost savings. In a sense it is free!

6- All heating and air conditioning systems should be on a programmable thermostat to make use of nights, weekends, and holidays. The thermostats are inexpensive, and they are valuable money savers.

7- I have also called a company that makes excellent insulated windows and asked them to give us a quote for replacing all the windows in the main Town Hall building. The cost savings may pay for the windows. This is the same company where I bought new windows for my home.

8-I think that we should put motion detectors on all lights in closets, restrooms, seldom used rooms, and anywhere else where few people go during the work day. The new lights would automatically turn on and off when motion iss detected, avoiding the possibility of being left on all day.

9-When we fully restart the new water plant, we should see a savings since we are now paying in the vicinity of $2000 per month to pump water from Lake Lanier to the water plant. When we begin adding the mountain water, the cost of this electricity should decrease since we will use gravity to send the mountain water to the water plant.

10- The Town Manager and I have also discussed how we could save money by using solar power. Prior to our present manager coming on board I was in contact with Duke Power with a request to become one of their locations for placing solar panels on a building; however, we did not qualify at the time. Recently Justin has contacted another company that does the same general type of energy contract with solar. He is awaiting an answer to see if we qualify this time.

11- There is also the possibility of making electricity from some form of hydroelectric hook-up at Lake Lanier. This is also being studied at this time.

I know that we can all work together to help the Town continue to weather the downturn in the economy. I will send another info letter soon.

J. Alan Peoples, Tryon Mayor