Mount Airy’s police, fire and other personnel often are heavily depended on during special events in the city, but this presence could be affected by municipal budget cuts.
Various cost-saving proposals that have been presented to the board of commissioners to help balance revenues and expenses includes one to trim overtime pay among city departments by $100,000 during the next fiscal year beginning on July 1.
“If there’s an emergency, we will cover it,” City Manager Barbara Jones said of the intent to make sure sufficient manpower is available for such situations in light of a reduction.
“I’m talking about special events and things like that,” Jones clarified regarding what would be affected most during a meeting last week, when she presented four options to meet a $12 million board directive for a 2017-2018 fiscal year operating budget.
Jones also had been instructed to include funding for police pay raises, and to do all this without a property tax hike or cuts in city services. The directive was a response to ongoing budget concerns by board members.
They are worried about being able to maintain day-to-day operations with annual revenues totaling about $11.5 million, with costly projects such as the revitalization of the former Spencer’s industrial property looming on the horizon.
Brinkley: help needed
Most of the overtime hours are logged by police and fire personnel, but other departments — such as public works — also build up overtime, according to Jones, especially when snowstorms strike.
In response to a question from Commissioner Shirley Brinkley, the city manager said employees sometimes are sent home during slow periods to offset overtime situations.
The four budget options presented by the city manager, which included varying combinations of reductions in an effort to meet the $12 million budget cap, all include the proposal to reduce overtime costs during 2017-2018 by $100,000. The board has not reached a consensus on any of the options, but is expected to make some decisions on that and other issues later this budget season.
If adopted, the $100,000 reduction will be applied among all city departments, said Jones, who added this could present challenges.
“It’s going to have to be managed very tightly — very — to handle all the functions we have in the city,” she said.
At that point, Commissioner Brinkley injected her belief that organizations such as the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce — sponsor of the Autumn Leaves Festival, the oldest and largest annual local event — should assist with costs involved.
She also mentioned possible help from the city Tourism Development Authority, which is funded by occupancy tax revenues levied at lodging establishments.
“I’ve fought that battle before,” Brinkley said of past attempts to achieve such input.
Costs of events $31,640
In conjunction with the overtime discussion, a report was presented to the commissioners showing that the various special events held in Mount Airy represent a hefty cost for the city government.
The annual price tag totaled $31,640 for all events, covering police, fire and public works personnel/equipment.
Figures show the Autumn Leaves Festival is by far the costliest event to the city, at $20,726.
Rounding out the top five are Mayberry Days, Farm Fest, the Mount Airy Christmas Parade and Budbreak, to be held this Saturday.
Commissioner Jon Cawley pointed out that some events raise funds that go out of town, such as the annual March of Dimes walk.
“But we’re there making sure people are safe crossing intersections,” he said of city personnel who meet the expectations of walk organizers in providing such functions.
Cawley said the same goes for the need to supply a police presence during Budbreak, a wine and craft beer festival.
“There are people in town who think that’s evil,” added Cawley, who in the past has advocated that organizations such as the March of Dimes reimburse the municipality a percentage of the money raised to help offset its expenses.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.