Mount Airy’s preliminary budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, unveiled Thursday night, includes some good news for most everyone.
And in other business during a meeting of the city board of commissioners, officials took action that could mean 48 new jobs involving an unnamed industry.
City taxpayers are in store for a 2-cent cut in the property tax rate, and no increase in water and sewer rates, according to details emerging at the meeting. The proposed budget also calls for maintaining public services at their present levels.
Municipal employees, meanwhile, would get a 2 percent cost-of-living raise, and the package also contains nearly $800,000 for building- and equipment-related needs for various city departments, including new police vehicles.
“This budget is designed to stay the course,” City Manager Barbara Jones said when presenting the spending plan for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.
Jones said she was able to do this partly by earmarking $1.8 million from Mount Airy’s general fund balance, or savings, in order to cover all the proposed budget’s provisions. That had been a directive from the commissioners during the winter, when the municipality was said to have $11.8 million available from that source. One motivation for this move was the fact the city has managed to increase its savings despite several “tight” budget years.
The proposed tax cut would mean Mount Airy property owners pay a rate of 54 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Jones said the proposed spending additions make the general fund portion of the budget — $12.9 million — about 5 percent higher that the adjusted budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the separate water-sewer budget proposed — $5.7 million — is 5.1 percent less than the total for the present fiscal year.
One change from previous budget cycles is the inclusion of $793,831 for capital outlay needs, which conforms to another board directive. These reflect major expenditures or projects costing $10,000 or more.
This funding would allow the municipality to stay “on target” with its replacement of police vehicles, along with various equipment needs for all departments. It also includes some HVAC upgrades, which has been viewed as a necessity; storm-drainage replacement; and street paving.
Money additionally is included in the capital outlay portion of the utility budget, for water and sewer line rehabilitation, continuing a trend started with this year’s spending plan.
The preliminary budget for the next fiscal year does not reflect a potential loss of state revenue, which has been a major concern, with Jones explaining that it is uncertain at this point what might happen in Raleigh. Should this amount to $1.2 million, as has been feared, the city manager said there are mechanisms in place to absorb the loss and avoid what she called a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Budget documents show the 2-percent cost-of-living raise recommended for all full-time city employees would not be across the board, but for those who had achieved satisfactory performance during their last evaluation. Qualifying workers would get a minimum $1,000 hike, which Jones said assures those at the lower end of the pay scale receive a greater percentage increase.
New-hire probationary employees, those serving disciplinary actions or workers receiving marginal reviews will not qualify.
Two full-time, unfilled positions have been eliminated in the proposed budget. Some manpower juggling also is envisioned for the personnel, police and parks and recreation departments.
Special appropriations to outside agencies such as the Surry Arts Council and Mount Airy Rescue Squad would stay at present levels, with a $1,000 increase by the public library to be considered at a later budget stage, Jones said.
The commissioners voted Thursday night to hold a public hearing on the 2013-2014 spending plan on June 13 at 7 p.m. The final budget will be adopted later in the month.
Some good news also might be in the offing for the local employment picture, based on another matter addressed Thursday night.
A late addition to the agenda involved setting a public hearing, also for June 13, regarding “Project Craftsman” — a code name for a company that’s proposing to renovate a vacant building in town. In addition to creating 48 jobs as a result, it would invest $960,000 in renovations to the facility and about $700,000 in new production equipment.
This is contingent on Mount Airy applying for a $480,000 building reuse and restoration grant from the North Carolina Rural Center. Receiving the grant would require a 5 percent local match totaling $24,000, to be split between the municipal and county governments.
The public hearing on June 13 will allow citizens to weigh in on the proposed application.
Martin Collins, city community-development director, said Thursday that the location of the vacant building involved must remain confidential at this time.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.