Andrews, state meet to determine fate of town finances
After making significant modifications to its budget, the town of Andrews proved that it can stay afloat without a state takeover.
Once the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to pass the new budget ordinance during today’s budget meeting, Sharon Edmundson with the Local Government Finance Division expressed her approval Wednesday night.
“Thank you for your efforts,” Edmundson said. “We’re going back to Raleigh without taking any official action tonight. We appreciate all y’all have done and we’re looking forward to the second step.”
Edmundson said the first step includes passing the budget ordinance, and the second step entails enforcing the budget. She noted that the Local Government Commission was not finished with Andrews and will continue to monitor its financial activity.
The 2018-2019 fiscal year budget includes a tax rate increase from 51.5 cents to 61.65 cents.
Taking the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project’s advice on water/sewer rate increases, the new budget includes $28 base fees for individuals living inside of the town, and a $40 base fee for commercial customers inside the city limits.
The outside individual base fee is now $56 for 3,000 gallons and $10 for 1,000 gallons over. The outside commercial base fee is $80 for 3,000 gallons and $10 for 1,000 gallons over.
Print story from June 28 edition
For Andrews to keep its head above the financial water, it is facing significant changes, including a proposed millage rate of 61.65 cents, more than 10 cents above today’s rate.
One suggestion brought before the Andrews Board of Aldermen by Interim Town Administrator Bill Green on Tuesday night included moving all of the town clerk’s salary and fringe benefits to the general fund. The town clerk’s salary and benefits at present are divided 50/50 between the general fund and water/sewer fund.
Green also proposed that 40 percent of Jake Buchanan’s salary be moved from the water/sewer fund to the general fund.
Green said each penny on the millage rate generates $9,696 at the town’s 92.66 percent collection rate.
Green has been working since he returned to the town on a budget plan based on a rate of 56.5 cents, a 5-cent raise to the millage rate from 2017-18. The proposed changes of the salaries into the general fund would require raising the property tax rate to 61.65.
For someone with a $1,000 tax bill, the proposed rate of 61.65 cents would increase their taxes by $197.09.
During the special called meeting Tuesday night, the aldermen agreed that the increase would make sense for the town and help them move closer toward meeting state standards.
The board will present its budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year Wednesday before members of the State & Local Government Finance Division of the Department of State Treasurer. Sharon Edmundson, director of the division’s Fiscal Management Section, said if the budget isn’t structurally sound, the Local Government Commission will enforce its resolution.
On Monday, the commission voted unanimously during a conference call to accept the resolution to impound the books and assume control of financial affairs of the Town of Andrews. Edmundson said this has been done in the past. The commission would appoint a finance officer, deputy finance officer, signatory and depository.
Edmundson said she hopes everything goes smoothly during the final budget proposal Wednesday. Even if she does find that the town’s budget meets state standards, the commission will follow up with the board and monitor town finances.
“We got a lot of support from board members,” she said during the Local Government Commission conference call. “One board member is being a little stubborn, and he’s also the one who owes the town a fair amount of back taxes. They’ve agreed that they need to do that. Overall, I think it has been a good process.”
To meet all state requirements, the town is required to have a balanced budget, where revenues match expenditures. During the upcoming budget presentation, local residents can expect an increase in water sewer rates and tax rates, and eliminated discriminatory water rate changes with the elderly and volunteer firefighters.
Green said Tuesday the proposed budget includes no raises and fewer people. The biggest challenge the town faces with its budget is the lack of reserves.