Wednesday, August 1, 2012
With a large chunk of change already in the bank — more than $2.7 million — Walden’s budget will not see many changes this year.
“It’s pretty much what we did last year, it’s pretty simple,” said Mayor Peter Hetzler in regards to this year’s roughly $1 million budget. “We’ve got about the same coming in, maybe a little less.”
According to Recorder Fern Lockhart, the “little less” comes from the fact that the town’s population has decreased by about 63 people, resulting in about $6,500 less for the municipality’s portion of state share taxes. The bigger culprit over the past few years has been the continued drop in Halls tax due to a 2011 amendment to make more people exempt, resulting in less money for municipalities.
“We really will not know how to budget for next year until we get this year’s Hall tax,” she said, in regards to what has primarily been the town’s biggest source of overage. “We don’t get that figure until August, so that figure might have to be tweaked a little bit when that time comes.”
The budget as approved on second and final reading estimates that amount to be $158,000. In years past it has been as high as $415,000, but for the past two years has come in between $160,000 and $180,000.
Residents will not see an increase in the amount of property taxes they pay the town, but they should see the benefits of the town’s increased allotment for Waldens Ridge Emergency Services. Officials decided to include a $25,000 miscellaneous line item per WRES representatives’ request for additional money to help fund its capital campaign for equipment and facility upgrades. For the past few years the town has donated $42,000.
This additional $25,000, envisioned to be an annual amount for the next three years, comes with the stipulation that other entities help WRES meet its overall fundraising goal.
“[Alderman] David [Epperson] had suggested we do $75,000 [the total amount WRES officials requested of the town]. I suggested we do $25,000 a year but do it as a match,” Hetzler said. “It may be motivation for other people to donate.”
Although with the current reserves the town “in essence [has] enough money if we got nothing for two years to run it, and then some,” according to Hetzler, resident Tom Matthews voiced concern over spending nearly half of that on renovating and enhancing the McCoy property. One million dollars was previously earmarked for the long-term project; this money is not counted in the reserves.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense if you take a step back and look what’s important: water improvements, fire protection, rescue squad,” he said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense with the economy the way it is. I don’t understand why we’d spend that much money on something that’s really got an open end [to costs].”
He listed grounds and building maintenance — “just think how much it costs to put five roofs on” — and security as costs which could exponentially add to the annual budget.
“People talk about having weddings there and all that. I think it’s great, but it comes at a high price for a place to have weddings,” Matthews said. “We’ve got churches all around and the country club.
“It doesn’t make sense to spend that kind of money for a bedroom community.”
Hetzler said even with the added upkeep and potential for dwindling revenues he doesn’t see a problem in maintaining the town’s finances.
“We had a surplus of $140,000 or something last year,” he said. “We’ve maintained a surplus; I see no reason not to continue to do that, and that’s even with maintaining the grounds. Gas and steel prices are going down. A whole lot of costs that you see, things are getting a little less expensive to buy.”
It is hoped that sentiment will ring true for asphalt, allowing the town to spread the $150,000 earmarked for paving a bit farther. It is also hoped that, like the Tennessee Department of Transportation, a thin top coat can be applied instead of pouring the spec of 6 inches, said Lockhart.
“Y’all need to tell me what you want paved. There’s not a lot of money in there,” she said to the Walden Board of Mayor and Alderman.
Crews are currently assessing the status of roadways throughout the town.
Normally the town bids out its paving in July. Due to the budget being approved by caption only last month so that officials could hold another budget workshop, time is now of the essence.
“If we don’t do it by August or September we run into cool weather where it doesn’t work properly,” Lockhart said. “We’ve got to pave before we can stripe; if we don’t get it paved before September we’re getting to where the paint won’t dry. It’s all time sensitive.”
A call for bids should be issued sometime in the next few weeks, she said.