The town has drafted a budget for fiscal year 2016 that breaks its historical mold of maintaining low debt and plugging away at small projects.
In order to prepare for the several thousand new residents who will move into Wendell Falls over the next several years, the board of commissioners has agreed to borrow up to $1.9 million in order to tackle several large projects that have been left wanting in previous budgets.
The current draft budget includes $7 million in general fund expenditures.
According to Town Manager Teresa Piner, borrowing the entirety of the $1.96 million loan would enable the town to garner a lower interest rate and combine both the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant – which the town hopes to receive in June – and other needs under the loan.
Piner feels strongly that borrowing the funds won’t put the town at risk.
“What makes me so confident about this loan is that we went to the Local Government Commission first and asked them to take a look at what we wanted to do, and how much we wanted to borrow, and they didn’t have any concerns at all,” Piner said in a May 5 interview.
“In fact, they even suggested we roll one of our existing loans into this package and we could actually save about $18,000 a year in interest on that loan. We hadn’t even thought about doing that honestly,” she said.
The town does not plan to increase property taxes, saying that they would be able to maintain a fund balance, or savings, of at least 40 percent of annual expenses.
Both the police department and the planning departments requested new positions in this year’s budget. Neither was included in Piner’s proposal to commissioners.
“We will monitor the income (which is a sign of the workload) and we’ll continue to evaluate,” Piner said of the planning position. “It’s tough to fund new positions before the revenue comes in to pay for them.”
The police department faces some of the same challenges. As construction begins in Wendell Falls and people eventually start moving into the homes, the need for police protection will grow.
Although the town will maintain waste pickup unchanged, they will eliminate bulky waste services.
Town employees will increase by living standards $1,400 and benefits will increase 3.7 percent.
Within the Parks and Recreation budget, the town has budgeted $14,400 for events, including movie nights and the Harvest Festival.
This coming fiscal year, the town will hold two movie nights – but instead of partnering with Regina Harmon’s to produce a large-scale event, the town will host more modest events and oversee them in-house, under the current proposal.
The Chamber of Commerce requested the town pay for one of the bands that performs at the Harvest Festival. That cost was estimated at about $4,000. Instead, the budget calls for the town to contribute $2,000 toward the festival, which the chamber can spend any way it sees fit.
GoRaleigh, the area transit service, requested more than the town’s budgeted $20,000 toward public transportation services. Last year, the town spent $12,400 on bus service.
Wendell, Zebulon and GoRaleigh are currently working out a compromise.
“There were several things going on at once. The grants were expiring and there’s a lot of discussion going on right now about mass transit,” Piner said. “We don’t really want to stop a service only to have it start back up a year from now. The unknown has been tough to deal with. We’d like to find a way to keep it,” said last week.
Piner concluded the presentation of the budget draft looking to the future, specifically needs that include a future muncipal complex, a police satellite station, road improvements and future new positions.
Hinnant pushed for the commissioners to vote on the budget after the public hearing May 25.