Council members pose questions about budget

Published 6:31 pm Friday, May 28, 2021

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The Windsor Town Council held a budget work session May 25 at which the town manager shared some minor changes he had made to the proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget and council members also asked him a variety of questions, including those related to rising Windsor Town Center and fuel expenditures and dropping revenues from traffic fines.

The work session was followed by a public hearing on the budget and the Capital Improvement Plan. No one from the public spoke at the hearing.

Town Manager William Saunders opened the work session by providing a rundown of the changes he had made to his proposed budget, which totals $2.3 million.

Saunders added that he learned just before the meeting that Isle of Wight County is expecting a little bit more money from the town this year than he had anticipated.

“So you may see a change of $5,000 to $10,000 in the transfer to governments line item coming up,” he said, adding that he needs to do a little research on it. “It’s a communication tax reimbursement to the county that is more than what I anticipated.”

Vice Mayor Greg Willis asked Saunders if he was anticipating the rising cost of fuel when he formed the budget, and Saunders said he thinks the fuel started to rise almost the day after he put the budget out for advertisement.

Saunders is recommending a $5,000 decrease in police vehicle fuel expenditures from $30,000 in the current fiscal year.

“We’re up to $15,000 so far this year, it was $19,000 actual last year, $21,000 actual the year prior and $23,000 actual the year before that, and I’ve got it at $25,000 (for FY 21-22),” he said. “So, it’s close. If you all would like me to pad that a little bit, I don’t mind doing it. It is tight with what we’re seeing in gas right now.”

Saunders indicated he had discussed the $25,000 recommendation with Windsor Police Chief Rodney D. “Dan” Riddle.

“If the chief is OK with this at this point, I think it’s reasonable for us to proceed with this,” Mayor Glyn T. Willis said, “and then, as has happened in the past, we may have to make some adjustments on some things as we get into the year and things change.”

Saunders said he will follow up with Riddle since gas prices have jumped.

Councilman Walter Bernacki asked Saunders if the proposed revenue of $90,000 from traffic fines was realistic.

The amount for the FY 2020-21 budget was $120,000.

“We’re at $75,000 so far, actual, this year,” Saunders said. “It was $103,000 last year, $124,000 the year before that, and $132,000 the year before that. The $75,000 is a little bit deceiving currently because of the lag time that’s from the pandemic.”

He said that if he had to guess now, he would say $75,000 might be what the town actually generates from traffic fines next year.

“They definitely have been going down and will continue to go down, I think probably to around $75,000 — we may reach a plateau there — but it’s so variable,” he said.

Saunders said Riddle has reviewed the numbers.

“He is shifting some of his tactics on speed control and safety to non-contact, so that’s going to result in fewer tickets, but I did revisit this number with him recently, and because of what he feels is going to be a lag, he didn’t recommend that we increase it,” Saunders said.

Bernacki also noted the fuel line item for water fund expenditures jumped a lot from FY 20-21, moving from $2,800 to a proposed $8,000.

Saunders said that line item was changed from “vehicle fuel” to “fuel,” so it will include vehicle fuel plus the propane for the new Public Works building. He said he and his staff estimated about $5,000 for the propane but noted they will better know what to expect after getting through a season with the building.

Bernacki also questioned why the total expenditures for the Windsor Town Center went from $35,000 in FY 20-21 to $45,500 in the proposed budget.

“The utilities jumped from $17,500 to $25,000 just based on actual numbers on the utility once the HVAC system is appropriately adjusted and being used, and that’s a little tight but pretty close to what we expect the more we’re seeing month to month the last six months,” Saunders said.

He also said he added $1,000 to the repairs and maintenance line, and he added a $2,000 line item for equipment because he said the town has nothing there except for supplies, and if the town needed any kind of new equipment, it would have had to pull from the general fund.

Mayor Willis asked Saunders if he could share some of the tools and the basis for how he arrived at amounts in the budget, particularly on the revenue side, and Saunders proceeded to give a rundown of the revenue items.

As an example, the first item he addressed was real estate tax. After his own research, including looking at last year’s number, Saunders proposed the amount of $210,000.

“Then the Commissioner of Revenue estimates a 2.5% increase in real estate tax budget, and so that $210,000 increased by 2.5% brings you to the $215,000 that I brought to you all tonight,” Saunders said.

The Windsor Town Council will hold a public hearing June 8 on the tax rates and water rate and will potentially adopt the FY 21-22 budget. The budget does not include any tax rate increases, but Saunders is proposing to increase the water rate of $7.50 per 1,000 gallons to $7.75 per 1,000 gallons.