Landis finance officer says town ‘heading in the right direction’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 5, 2020

By Liz Moomey

LANDIS — While presenting the financial report on Monday, Finance Officer Diane Seaford told Landis aldermen she was excited about the direction the town was heading but wanted to be cautious.

Seaford said the general fund, water fund, sewer fund and light fund would see an increase in retained earnings. The general fund’s revenues are at 77% of what’s budgeted and the expenditures are at 62%. Her conservative estimate was the fund’s net position would increase by $330,000. The water fund’s will add about $500,000 while paying off the yearly debt payments. The sewer fund is expected to increase by at least $175,000 after paying the remaining debt payment for this fiscal year. In the light fund, Seaford said, the debt payments are also made and an accounting change will keep $368,250 in the fund, which will see an increase in its net position of $500,000.

The aldermen approved a budget amendment of about $150,000 earlier in the meeting to pay off a loan early for electric meters purchased in 2016. The early payment will save the town $5,000 and will “improve our overall debt structure,” Seaford said.  Though, Seaford added meter fees will not be taken off of utility bills.

The town too is starting to look better with liquidity and cash flow, she said.

“While we’re heading in the right direction, I don’t think this is a time to increase our spending or decrease our revenue streams,” she said.

She said the town may feel the economic impact of COVID-19 with a potential decrease in collection rates for utilities and property tax payments. She added sales tax revenue is going to go down significantly. 

“I would caution you because this is the time we’re in some unknown territory as a community, as a state and as a nation, and also as a town, we’re just now starting to get back on our feet,” Seaford said.

I the town is in a better place next year, she said, Landis can evaluate making changes.

Mayor Meredith Smith said she thinks citizens will understand not adjusting taxes and fees.

Interim Town Manager Leonard Barefoot said the town is headed in the right direction. Barefoot said he would like to continue to increase the fund balance. The state treasurer’s Local Government Commission recommends municipalities to have 8% or higher fund balance. 

Barefoot said he has seen towns the size of Landis have a fund balance of 100%. When the “bottom fell out,” in those cases, the town did not have to lay anyone off, Barefoot said.

During board comments, Alderman Darrell Overcash inquired about a $30 vehicle tax that was put in place in 2019.

Smith said the tax should remain, but the town needs to have a plan for where the money should go, with examples including fixing roads or sidewalks.

Barefoot said the town should develop a strategy to capitalize on repaving projects to keep costs down.

The aldermen will hold a budget workshop May 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Other business:

• The aldermen adopted a social media policy, with the help of UNC School of Government. The policy outlines appropriate behavior of town employees on social media in an official and unofficial capacity. It also outlines public comment guidelines.

• The board members authorized the sale of a 20-foot-wide strip of land on South Chapel Street at the intersection of Hickory Avenue. The aldermen received an offer from ABCD Fence for $2,500 to purchase the property.

• The aldermen also agreed to allow NCMPA1 to send its monthly wholesale power bill by email only. The bill was received both by mail and email previously.

• The board approved a capital project ordinance and budget amendment for Lake Corriher Wilderness Park improvements. Seaford said there will be no new improvements to the park, but the ammendment was to update the town’s budget with the completed project costs for the audit.