Tryon makes cuts to avoid rate increases

Published 2:07 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tryon decided this week not to raise water and sewer rates as earlier planned.

Instead, the town decided to cut most department expenditures by five percent next fiscal year and in the future look at reducing the number of town employees through early retirement and both voluntary and involuntary termination of employees.

The town will take another look at the budget in about six months and determine whether any rate changes need to be made at that time.

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Tryon Town Council approved Tuesday the budget for fiscal year 2010-11. The first proposed budget was short about $150,000 in the water and sewer fund, but incentives such as offering early retirement to long-standing employees and cutting expenses could make up the shortfall next fiscal year.

The town faces new debt service on $300,000 of financing for a joint Columbus, Saluda, Tryon project to construct a new water line from Tryon to Saluda. The town is also incurring new debt for approximately $3 million in financing to rehabilitate its water plant.

Once council directed town manager Justin Hembree to propose a budget with no increases, Hembree set forth a phased-in expense reduction plan that includes the possibility of not rehiring employees who may retire early.

Strategies included in the plan range from across-the-board budget reductions to the abolishment of positions, Hembree said in a memo to council this week. Strategies in phase II will focus more on long term cost savings and actions that will involuntarily reduce the towns workforce. It should be clearly understood that the implementation of this plan will likely result in the reduction of the size of the towns workforce, the abolishment of positions, and both voluntary and involuntary termination of employees.

Hembree said he has already met with employees to discuss the future possibilities for the town.

The cost-reduction plan also includes longer term goals such as joining a regional water system, possibly with the county, or selling its water system. The town also plans to attempt to gain more sewer customers. Officials have said it could be beneficial to both towns if Tryon treated Columbus sewage.

The town had also previously discussed the option of making recycling mandatory for residents, which could save the town expenses in sanitation services. Council decided Tuesday not to make either recycling or bagging leaves mandatory, but will encourage both.

Mayor pro-tem Austin Chapman, who ran the meeting Tuesday in Mayor Alan Peoples absence, suggested instead of making recycling mandatory, the town could charge a small fee, such as $2, to persons who dont recycle.

Councilmen Roy Miller, Doug Arbogast and Wim Woody were not in favor of that idea.

Were not rewarding people for recycling, so we shouldnt penalize for not recycling, Miller said.

Miller previously said this week that the towns recycling rate is fairly high and it continues to grow. He has maintained that the town needs to educate residents about what can be recycled before making recycling mandatory.

The towns budget adopted Tuesday includes $1,544,041 in the general fund and $2,642,620 in the water and sewer fund. The towns fire tax will remain the same at 4.8 cents per $100 of valuation and the towns tax rate will remain the same at 47.78 cents per $100 of valuation. The Harmon Field tax is also unchanged.

The towns new fiscal year begins July 1.