Spencer swears in new mayor pro tem

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By Emily Ford
SPENCER — Following tradition, Jim Gobbel, the top vote-getter in November’s election, was tapped Tuesday as mayor pro tem for the Spencer Board of Aldermen.
The town’s auditor gave Spencer a clean bill of financial health.
Previous Mayor Pro Tem Scott Benfield nominated Gobbel for mayor pro tem, which passed unanimously. District Court Judge Marshall Bickett administered the oath of office to Gobbel, as well as to re-elected Mayor Jody Everhart and the board.
New Alderman Kevin Jones joins incumbents Reid Walters, Jeff Morris and David Smith. The board thanked outgoing members Tracy Aitken and Delaine Fowler, who did not seek re-election.
Auditor Eddie Carrick delivered the annual financial critique and said the town ended the past fiscal year in nice shape.
“You had a very good year,” Carrick said.
Although property tax revenue fell $38,000, the town “did an excellent job” increasing revenue from licenses, he said.
Revenue from local auctions, franchise taxes and the Powell Bill fund — state money for street improvements — remained steady, Carrick said. Of the 15 towns he audits, about 10 percent saw a decrease in those revenues last year, he said.
“To stay on a break-even basis, that is good,” he said.
While property tax and vehicle tax collection rates have fallen in many towns, Spencer’s collection rates remain at 96 percent, he said.
The town made up for the loss in property tax revenue by holding down expenses, which fell by $122,000 even though the town made a $72,000 debt payment on the library renovation project, Carrick said.
“That’s great news,” he said.
The town took in $99,000 more than it spent last year, compared to $14,000 more than it spent the year before.
“You all had a very good year being able to control expenses,” Carrick said.
The town’s $1.8 million fund balance represents 73 percent of expenditures, slightly higher than the state average of 60 percent.
“That’s not a tremendous amount in today’s environment,” he said. “If something comes up and revenues drop significantly, or you lose a major taxpayer, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough cushioning to provide services.”
Carrick advised town leaders to remain “conservative and opportunistic,” looking for any chance to bring in more revenue. Don’t count on more money from Raleigh, even when the economy improves, he told the board.
The state is broke, he said, and legislators will balance their budget on the backs of towns like Spencer.
“Sacred cows make great hamburgers,” Carrick said. “Raleigh’s going to take whatever Raleigh needs to operate.”
Carrick said he’s seen towns become overly optimistic with projected revenues and then end up in trouble when the money doesn’t materialize.
“Unfortunately in the last 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of it fall right back on small municipalities,” he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.