By Stan Welch – The Piedmont Public Service Commission voted Monday to give final approval to a budget that raises the millage by two mills, to address a deficit in the operation of the District’s fire department.
Commissioner Rudy Rhodes cast the sole dissenting vote, saying later that he felt that the Commissioners had not had the opportunity to be involved in the process prior to a budget workshop held before the second reading.
Following the vote, Commission Chairman Ed Poore addressed Rhodes’ concerns, saying that any issues he had with the budget should have been addressed at that workshop. “That’s the purpose of a workshop. I asked over and over if there were any comments or questions. I don’t know what else to do.”
Poore also offered an emphatic defense of the budget and the Commission. He began with a long list of expenditures that the District has undergone in the past, all without increasing the millage.
The list included three fire trucks, an emergency generator, a grass fire truck, a rescue boat, a new field station, new radios, and new turnout gear. Much of that equipment was obtained entirely or in part through grants.
He acknowledged that the district had paid for a new roof for the station, three defibrillators, and a new concrete pad in front of the main station; but he reiterated that no millage increase had resulted.
He pointed out that the two mill increase – only the second such increase in the 22 years the district has existed – would increase taxes on a $100,000 home by just eight dollars a year. “A two mill increase ain’t bad, folks. J.P. Stevens is gone, and they aren’t coming back. People are going to have to pay for the services they receive.”
He added that the millage for the recreation department has never been increased, despite the purchase of a new lawn tractor, and significant repairs and renovations to the community building.
“But here’s the big one, the biggest one of all. We got nine million dollars for a new sewer system from the house to the street to the treatment plant. And the sewer bill for those customers will actually come down, on average by about 80 dollars. I think this Commission and this staff have done an outstanding job of finding money to be used without raising taxes. I’m not backing up to anybody about that, and neither should any of you other Commissioners.”
The budget includes the two mill increase, and a 1.5% increase in pay for all full time firefighters. It also requires an increased contribution by employees towards the medical insurance for themselves and their families.