Tryon eyes end to 2001 budget crisis

Published 5:54 pm Thursday, May 24, 2012

Final payment to fire dept. budgeted next year
It’s taken 11 years, but the end of the Town of Tryon’s 2001 budget crisis is finally in sight. During those 11 years, the town has made payments to state agencies and the town’s fire department because of money the town previously misspent to pay operating expenses.
Tryon’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 includes the town’s final payment to its fire department, budgeted at $22,260. In 2001, the town agreed to make payments to its fire department from the general fund for the next 10 years. The town misspent $322,260 in fire department funding, using it for town operating expenses.
The crisis was uncovered in July 2001 when then Tryon Town Manager David Draughn resigned just after the town adopted a new budget that included a 14-cent tax increase. The town began to slowly uncover its true financial picture, eventually realizing that Tryon had been overspending for many years.
The numbers kept growing the more the town discovered. Initial estimates were that the town was $450,000 in the red. As the N.C. Local Government Commission (LGC) became involved and the town hired interim town manager John Lewis and interim finance officer Larry Fisher, the actual debt climbed to more than $1 million.
Current Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples, who was elected after the town’s debt discovery, later estimated the total shortfall was between $1.5 million and $1.7 million.
Mayor Peoples said this week it is remarkable that Tryon is now at its current point financially.
“I feel elated more than you can imagine,” Peoples said. “Considering the restraints we had, I think the things this town has done are remarkable.”
Peoples is specifically speaking of the town’s being able to pay back the funding and build up the town’s reserves while not raising taxes following the discovery of the shortfall. Tryon has actually had slight reductions in taxes over the last 10 years.

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