Wednesday, May 16, 2012
No new taxes. That’s the expectation after each of the mountain’s municipalities held their first preliminary budget meetings last week.
But that does not mean the townships are experiencing flat budget numbers. The town of Signal Mountain will have extra expenditures tied to the annexation of Fox Run and Windtree scheduled to go into effect at the end of this calendar year. Walden is expecting a shortfall in revenues due to state legislature changes in the redistribution of the Hall Tax.
“Revenues for this year didn’t change a whole lot,” said Signal Mountain Town Manager Honna Rogers, noting that she expects to finish out the fiscal year approximately $200,000 under budgeted expenses.
“It’s a good thing I don’t expect anything to go down, but there are still a lot of things I’m cautious about moving up,” she said. She expects officials to use the excess money to authorize some long-needed capital projects, like overhauling the sprinkler system at the Mountain Arts Community Center and redoing the floor in the town gymnasium.
‘Cautious’ is a key word every time Walden does its budget, according to officials. Frugal budgeting and thrifty spending have allowed the town to maintain zero debt, even while contributing to the multi-million-dollar loan that helped build Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and set aside $1 million for phased capital projects at the McCoy property.
“I think we’ve really done well to have lost that much money that we’re losing,” said Town Recorder Fern Lockhart, referring to the reduction in Hall Tax the town expects to collect, which is down more than half what it consistently was prior to 2011. In 2010, Walden collected $315,336 in Hall Tax, but this fiscal year the town will get $158,000 and Lockhart anticipates $150,000 for 2012-2013. “We’ve got $881,000 proposed revenue by the end of this fiscal year. That’s quite a bit less than the actual for June 30, 2011 [$987,128.71]. The biggest part of that is the Hall Tax.”
Lockhart said her town’s budget does not appear balanced on paper, but it isn’t as bad as it seems. She expects the town to come in approximately $100,000 under budget this fiscal year that ends June 30. That money, as well as unspent money marked for McCoy, must be put back into the general fund but will be taken out again for what it was intended.
The $100,000 will help cover the town’s $75,000 biennial road paving.
While Walden does not expect to recoup the hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s losing due to changes to the Hall Tax, the town of Signal Mountain’s budget numbers will even out after this first year of annexation.
Once the new residents’ property taxes — approximately $395,000 with $70,000 restricted for the school loan — are factored in, the approximately $125,000 in expenditures to provide services will be covered moving forward. Property taxes come in one year in arrears.
No new full-time employees are expected to be hired to help service the annexed area at this time.
Neither of the townships are expected to have their first budget readings until June. In the meantime, public workshops to hammer out all the details will continue as announced.