Tryon cutting costs, finding savings in town finances

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 1, 2018

TRYON — Tryon increased its fund balance from just $210,120 at the end of fiscal year 2016 to $749,607 at the end of 2017, according to the town’s audit report.

The increase means a boost in savings from 13.6 percent of general fund expenditures at the end of 2016 to 51.7 percent at the end of 2017.

The state requires that local governments keep at least an 8 percent fund balance. Most small towns and counties keep at least a 20 percent fund balance.

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Tryon heard its annual audit report during its May meeting from Terry Andersen, with Carland & Andersen Inc., certified public accountants.

Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples said Thursday that the town was able to increase its fund balance by making cuts in several areas.

He gave credit to department heads, including Town Manager Zach Ollis, Police Chief Jeff Arrowood, Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant and Town Clerk Susan Bell for finding many ways for the town to save money.

Peoples said one of the things Tryon did was not replace people who retired or resigned for a while. When the town filled the positions, the new employees were not paid as high of salaries, particularly as those who retired after many years.

Peoples said there were also a lot of little things, particularly after Ollis was hired, such as finding apps on phones that were not needed.

For instance, Arrowood figured out at least an $8,000 savings per year on the town’s phone system.

“There are dozens of things like that they were able to find,” Peoples said.

For fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, the fire department fund balance increased by $30,553, according to the audit report. The fire department fund balance at the end of 2016 was just a little over $6,000.

The Harmon Field fund balance also increased significantly between 2016 and 2017, from an unassigned 2016 balance of $13,729 to the 2017 unassigned balance of $109,627, according to the audit report.

Tryon is currently drafting its budget for fiscal year 2018-2019, which begins July 1.

The town is proposing no property tax increases next year, but a 4-cent tax increase for the fire department.

Peoples said on the books, the town looks to be in good financial condition, and this is the highest fund balance the town has seen in his tenure at least, but Tryon does have needs, particularly for equipment. Peoples said the town needs to replace a dump truck and a garbage truck, which combined will cost more than $200,000.

He also said Tryon needs more employees in a couple of departments.

“When I filed in 2001, we had 46 employees, and now we are down to 29 employees,” Peoples said. “We need some more employees in a couple of departments, there’s no question in my mind; we could use at least two more full-time employees.

“Financially, we look good, but if you look at what our needs are, there’s a red side to that. So yes, I think we are looking at a tax increase sometime in the near future.”

Peoples also mentioned during the 2017 property revaluation last year, the town essentially cut taxes by 3 cents by going revenue neutral on the budget, so the town is no longer receiving as much revenue  as it did two years ago.

Tryon has scheduled a public hearing on the upcoming budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19.