The Transylvania Times -

Council Approves Brevard Budget, Tax Increase

 

June 21, 2018



Brevard City Council unanimously voted Monday to approve a $22.2 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year, including a 1.5-cent property tax increase to help pay for the new Mary C. Jenkins Community Center and increases in water and sewer rates.

Councilman Charlie Landreth made a motion to approve the budget as presented but shared concerns with Councilman Gary Daniel and Councilwoman Maureen Copelof over whether to allow for a full-time fire chief for the Brevard Fire Department (BFD), or just increase staff.

The fire department’s budget is set at $728,863 and calls for manned day service from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week; a third person three days a week for the day shift; manned evening service from 5 p.m. to midnight six days per week (Monday night is a training drill for all part-time firefighters); a full-time fire chief; an assistant fire chief position, with increases in hourly pay and elimination of the monthly stipend.

Prior to the budget’s approval, BFD firefighter Jack Sgroi said there has never been a full-time fire chief and that BFD officials weren’t consulted on the change.

“This was never brought to the fire department to see what the need of the fire department was, and I think the department should have a say in that,” Sgroi said. “Currently, we have a day staff of two to three people, depending on what day it is, and an evening staff of just two, and that’s a driver and a firefighter, though the standard is ‘two in and two out.’ We would be better able to serve this community if we were to add more staff instead of having a full-time fire chief.”

Copelof said she doesn’t object to the numbers, but based on concerns, such as what Sgroi raised, she said there should be more discussion before hiring a full-time chief.

“I’m just saying that before actual staffing decisions are made, there should be more discussion before we convert the part-time position to a full-time,” she said. “It wouldn’t affect passing the budget and having the money available for increased staffing. It would just be the nature of staffing. I think that should be reconsidered.”

Landreth pointed out that Brevard is a city government with full-time department heads, all except for the BFD, which gives him pause.

“I think it’s reasonable to talk about proceeding without a full-time director, but we also exist in a complicated emergency management community, and we are rural, so I think it’s helpful for the city to have a full-time person managing that relationship and those service expectations,” he said.

Councilman Gary Daniel said there are “unanswered questions.”

“I think we can pass the budget as is, but we are requesting more discussion before we move into hiring a new chief, but the financing will be there for whatever decision,” he said.

City Manager Fatland initially presented the budget at May’s City Council meeting.

Now that the budget is approved, the city’s tax rate will go from $.495 cents per $100 dollar valuation to $.51 cents, with 1 cent of the tax increase for the new center.

In a previous meeting, Fatland said the center will cost about $800,00 and will be financed over 15 years, with an annual debt payment calculated at $59,721.

The budget’s general fund will increase by about $800,000, from $9.8 million to $10.4 million.

Also in the general fund, Fatland proposed the city’s Public Works Department take over residential recycling.

“We currently contract with Waste Pro, and in October they are going to raise rates for residential recycling from $3 to $4.75, and commercial to $5.75,” he said. “So, what we are going to do is do ‘in-house’ recycling for residential to keep it at $3, and take all recycling out to the recycling facility ourselves,” Fatland said. “We will continue to contract with Waste Pro for commercial recycling and that will be $5.75 per customer per month.”

In general fund expenditures, salaries are up $133,856, with a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase approved.

Fatland also included market adjustments for police officer salaries because the city has had problems recruiting and retaining officers.

In his budget, Fatland also recommended that half a cent of the proposed tax increase go toward improvements to the multi-use path.

There is $300,000 in the budget for the improvements, which include extending the Estatoe Trail and making trail improvements in Bracken Preserve.

Fatland has said that in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the city would like to construct a pedestrian bridge over Davidson River, extend the trail from McLean Road to Probart, and start trail construction on the proposed Tannery Park.

Another component of the budget is the water and sewer utility fund, which increases to $6,249,497 from $5,658,500 in the current fiscal year.

In the past several years, the city has undertaken various expensive utility improvements, which feature low- or no-interest loans to pay for them.

“The payments start in the fiscal year coming up, so the increase in the utility fund is basically the debt service,” Fatland said.

Also in the budget are 4 percent increases in the water and sewer rates.

For a 5,000-gallon customer, for example, it equates to a $3 per month increase — $1.50 for water and $1.50 for sewer.

“Four years ago, staff shared with the city council that annual percentage rate increases were not generating sufficient revenue to meet rising costs and incurred debt for master plan capital improvements,” Fatland said in his budget report.

In water and sewer capital projects, the Cathey’s Creek Stream Restoration and New Water Treatment Plant Intake project received a $1 million grant to fund the full amount.

“So, there is no local tax money needed for that,” Fatland said. “They are going to restore the stream banks, as well as move our water treatment plant intake on Cathey’s Creek upward.

“That project will be done in the next couple of years. Then, we are going to rehab the existing pump station at the sewer plant itself and that’s going to be $200,000.”

In the capital projects’ fund, Fatland said there is a $7 million decrease from last year, and all the previous projects have been completed.

 
 

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