Williamston Town Council begins budget discussions

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Williamston Town Council held a budget work session Tuesday which included discussions on salary increases, recreation and other items being presented in the draft budget for 2022-23.
The meeting included the mayor, two councilmembers and town clerk by phone. Councilmembers Lee Cole and Tony Hagood were not present.

Mayor Rockey Burgess said his two main goals for the 2022-23 budget was to include step payroll increases for employees and look at a possible restructure of the police department.
Burgess said that employees with certain accreditations should be paid more. He presented a graph of step increases he would like to see.
Councilwoman Tabatha Austin said continuing with the infrastructure improvements was a priority for her. Councilman Chris Alexander said recreation and improvements was priority for him.

Looking at recreation, Burgess said there has been some work done to alleviate washes on the ballfields with more dirt being brought in and they are pursuing a $25,000 SCPARD grant for other improvements including new dugouts. Burgess said work had begun on the Pickelball Courts in Mineral Spring Park with two surfaces of asphalt being taken up as part of a soil remediation project before paving. The asphalt, which was holding moisture, had been removed and the soil has been compacted with a small crown in the center to help with drainage. Burgess said the additional soil remediation cost is approximately $90,000. Cost for the Pickelball Courts is budgeted at $160,000 over a two year period. He said the project will also need additional fencing and lighting. “I think it will be a big draw for the town.”

Burgess told the councilmembers there has been some interest by developers in the old water treatment plant and the old depot, but offered no details.

During the work session, Mayor Burgess and Clerk Michelle Starnes worked through the revenues and budget figures for each department.

In the draft budget, General Fund revenues remained almost the same at $3,412,948 with approximately $16,000 more coming in from property taxes, however a water tower lease of $6,000 may come off, the mayor said.
General fund expenditures are expected to increase by just over $16,000, primarily due to an increase in liability and property insurance.
Admin salaries are expected to increase by about $4,000 if the one percent raise is approved. The town is also adding $12,000 to the budget for employee fitness.
Mayor Burgess said he would like to see one to two percent across the board pay increase for employees and keep the tax millage where it is this year.
“Sooner or later we will have to increase it,” he said.

In specific departments, Envision Williamston requested an additional $20,000 for a dog park and $10,000 for events. The program is currently budgeted $35,000 which includes a part-time director.

The Street Department will see an increase in retirement expense of approximately $20,000. The budget calls for an increase in gas/electricity cost of $5500. Total budget of $473,027, up from $450,020.
Court costs of $18,293 remain the same.

The Police Department budget reflects a proposed increase of approximately $87,000, mainly from salaries and related expenses, retirement, health insurance increases and fuel costs. There is also an increase for police supplies and capital outlay for needed work on the building.

The Parks and Recreation budget decreased by about $13,000, with some expenses including repairs, supplies, gas/electricity, phone, water and fuel being moved to the hospitality fund.

The Fire Department budget reflects an increase of $41,668 due to slight increases in every line item and $25,000 for capital improvements. The department needs to upgrade a radio repeater at a cost of $15,000 and Class A uniforms at a cost of $10,000.

The Hospitality Tax Fund shows expected revenues of $250,000 with funding for nine events remaining the same. Park Upkeep is budgeted at $92,500, Capital improvements is budgeted at $101,300 and Security for festivals is budgeted at $10,000. Total $250,000. One half of the cost of the pickelball court, $80,000, is included in Capital improvements line item.

The mayor said the town has approximately $500,000 in ARPA funds which can be used if needed, but he preferred to use that money to upgrade infrastructure in the town and leverage it with grant funds. He also said some old equipment was being sold and would bring in some additional revenue.

The draft budget shows a deficit of $443,340. It will be presented for first reading in some form at the next meeting of council on May 2.