The Smithfield Town Council will hold a public hearing on its 2015-16 spending plan at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.
The proposed budget would hike general fund spending by $900,000 to $13.8 million, cut the electric fund by $300,000 to $19.5 million and increase the water and sewer fund by $2.3 million to $8.8 million. The proposal maintains the current property tax rate of 57 cents per $100 of valuation.
Taken together, that’s an 8 percent spending increase over the current fiscal year.
The Town Council had planned to adopt the budget following the public hearing, but Councilman Perry Harris said Tuesday that he and others would like more time to review the document.
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“The conversation I’ve heard from several councilmen is they’d like to have another budget meeting to discuss the budget and possible changes,” he said.
Harris asked to meet before the public hearing, but the council agreed instead to talk after the hearing and then set a date for a vote. By doing so, the town avoids triggering additional requirements for filing public notices.
For town employees, including those who work in the utility departments, the budget provides for 2.5 percent merit-based pay raises.
In the proposal, Smithfield hopes to “return to an effective and affordable capital-improvement plan for many of its departments,” Town Manager Paul Sabiston wrote in his budget message. To that end, the plan allocates $6.1 million for capital needs.
About $1.3 million of that would go to the general fund to cover needs including street repaving; five vehicles and 33 radios for police; and additional bleachers at Civitan, Talton and Community parks. The Smithfield Fire Department would get $530,000 to replace a fire engine.
In the water and sewer department, the budget calls for capital spending of $1 million at the water plant and $1.6 million for improvements to the rest of the system. That includes:
▪ $900,000 to reduce how much storm water flows into the sewer system.
▪ $530,000 to fix the water plant’s intake on the Neuse River, which currently sucks sand into the system.
▪ $150,000 to install a chlorine dioxide treatment system at the water plant and another $100,000 for electrical work.
▪ $140,000 to replace a 1996 backhoe.
To cover some of that spending, the budget proposes raising the base fees charged each month to water and sewer users beginning July 1. The plan hikes the water fee for in-town residents to $9 from $5.47 and for out-of-town customers to $15 from $12. For sewer, the fees would rise to $10 from $6.98 for in-town users and to $15 from $13.98 for those outside town limits.
Capital expenditures in the electric department add up to $1.8 million, with $1.3 million going to add a second transformer at the Brogden Road substation.
To prepare for the hearing, members of the public may review a full copy of the budget proposal in Town Clerk Shannan Williams’ office at Town Hall, 350 E. Market St. The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To request an electronic copy, email Williams at email@example.com.