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Landis officials optimistic about town’s financial status

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Finance Director Diane Seaford on Monday delivered Landis town aldermen an optimistic outlook on the town’s revenues and expenses halfway through the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Seaford presented a financial update of the fiscal year budget up to Dec. 31, which showed revenues in the general fund look healthy because they’ve reached nearly 62% for the year so far. Revenues are also exceeding expenditures by $325,504, which means that much more has been added to the fund balance.

The fund balance, which partially functions as a savings account for governments, was $1.95 million on July 1, but has increased to $2.28 million as of Dec. 31.

“That does not mean it will stay that way for the rest of the year,” Seaford said. “But it is certainly a good place to be halfway through the year.”

Though Seaford said the 62% figure can be deceiving, it’s not “overly optimistic” because property taxes often come in “heavy” after bills are received. She added that the town is “on target” for garbage collection fees and “way ahead” on recreation program fees.

The general fund reflects that just more than 45% of expenses budgeted have been spent to date. Most of the 14% budgeted for debt has been paid.

Expenses in the water fund are currently just above 28% of budget, but Seaford anticipates an increase due to outstanding debt and recent water main breaks. Additionally, the $105,000 budgeted for the sewer fund has not yet been used. And with retained earnings increasing by $287,460, Seaford said the fund is in a good place, but it’s not as ideal as first glances indicated.

The water fund was budgeted at $1.03 million in July.

Stormwater revenues have reached nearly 60% of budget, but are offset by expenses at nearly 31%. The fund is set to break even by the end of the fiscal year, and the fund balance has increased by $27,720. The fund was budgeted at $98,500 for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Revenues for the sewer fund are just under 48%, while expenses sit at nearly 41%. Though retained earnings in this fund increased by $39,871, it’s likely to fall throughout the rest of the fiscal year. The sewer fund was budgeted for $1.05 million for the fiscal year, but total expenses amount to nearly $1.16 million, with $105,000 to be allocated from the general fund.

Revenues in the electric fund, which were budgeted at $6.54 million, are almost at 62%, but the town has not yet received the full $950,433 rebate from Electricities, which will add a significant amount of earnings at the end of the fiscal year. Expenses were budgeted at $5.99 million.

Overall, the town has $5.69 million in cash balances across all funds, which is at least a million more than the amount the town had in March during the 2019-20 fiscal year, Seaford said.

Also at the meeting and following a public hearing, aldermen voted to move monthly meetings from the first Monday of each month to the second Monday of each month. The board suggested the change at its Jan. 11 meeting to eliminate conflicts with holidays. Meetings will also now take place at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m.

Barefoot said two locals emailed him in support of the new meeting date. One local, Nadine Cherry, said she had reservations about changing the meeting date.

Also at the meeting:

• Aldermen approved an amendment to the town’s contract with Ann R. Craven, CPA, PLLC, to extend the firm’s deadline to submit a final audit report to the Local Government Commission and the town to Feb. 23. The original contract was set for Jan. 21, but the firm has not yet submitted the final report. In a message to the LGC, the firm assumed responsibility for the delay and Seaford said the town notified the LGC of the delay. Aldermen expect a presentation of the audit in March.

• Aldermen approved a budget amendment to add $22,000 in funding for a new contract with VC3 to improve the town’s internet and phone services from received sales tax refunds. The proposal offers a complete IT service that will manage all of the town’s accounts for internet, phones and computers. Seaford said there won’t be fiscal years where the budget is significantly higher for equipment replacements.

• Aldermen adopted a resolution to adopt a policy for mutual assistance with other law enforcement agencies. The resolution allows Landis’ Public Safety Director Zachary Lechette to authorize arrangements with other municipal and county law enforcement agencies and allow Landis Police officers to work temporarily with other agencies, even in an undercover capacity, and share resources/equipment.

• Aldermen approved a budget amendment of $1,400 to purchase land adjacent to North Chapel Street before the area is bid later this month.

• Aldermen also approved a suggestion from Barefoot to rescind the current resolution in place that awards retired officers with badges and side arms and instead grant such authority to the entire board of aldermen. In November 2019, the board approved then-Town Manager Roger Hosey’s request to allow him the authority to dispose of badges and weapons. But Barefoot said current legislation doesn’t allow for such authority and clearly states only the service side arm can be awarded to a retiring officer at a price to be determined by the board of aldermen. The change also allows the town manager to arrange for active officers to purchase their assigned weapons via private negotiation when the town purchases new weapons for officers.

• Aldermen will consider a request from Barefoot to continue operating on a resolution passed in October 2019 that allows the town manager authority over decisions related to surplus property valued less than $30,000. Barefoot added that he would seek input from the board for more significant pieces of equipment such as a Zero electric motorcycle purchased for patrolling the Lake Corriher Wilderness Park in 2018. Barefoot said the motorcycle is not currently in use due to the terrain and other issues at the park. Barefoot said Lechette feels the proceeds from the sale could be better served elsewhere. The motorcycle cost was $10,535 in 2018, with an annual insurance cost of $640.

• Aldermen approved a budget amendment to move Powell Bill revenues received to date from the administration’s revenues fund in the general fund to the streets’ revenue fund in the general fund, which makes for a better fit for accounting purposes. The current amount of revenues for the Powell Bill in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget shows $97,000 received and is required by the state for road maintenance.

• Seaford publicly acknowledged the town’s new collections/revenue supervisor, Rebecca Powell, who began in December and “has already made great strides with learning all of our utility systems.” Seaford added that she’s confident Powell will help the town improve its collections rate.

• Seaford announced that all COVID-19 plans for customers with outstanding balances on their utilities bills have ended.

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