Salisbury manager’s budget uses savings to balance revenues, has $47 million in expenditures

Published 6:09 pm Wednesday, May 19, 2021

SALISBURY — City Manager Lane Bailey on Tuesday night recommended a 2021-2022 fiscal year budget that will require the use of savings to balance revenues and expenditures.

Bailey presented the Salisbury City Council with a budget with just over $47 million in general fund expenditures, a plurality of which is for the police and fire departments. An additional $3.96 million will be used to purchase equipment such as police radios, vehicles, public works equipment and computers. To make revenues equal expenditures, Bailey proposes the city use $1.27 million from the general fund’s fund balance, which acts partially as a savings account.

Bailey said his proposed budget will not require a property tax rate increase, keeping it at 71.96 cents per $100 in property valuation. The city’s fund balance will decrease to 31.59% of general fund expenditures, but that’s higher than the state and council’s preferred minimum and better than it would otherwise be because of expense savings in the current fiscal year.

“This has been a challenging year financially, physically and emotionally, but staff has risen to the challenge and continued to provide exceptional services to our community,” said Bailey. “Because of sound financial management in previous years, the general fund fund balance remains healthy. We will continue to budget conservatively, but based on the increase in sales tax revenue and issuance of development permits, I am optimistic about our community’s ability to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With the money from fund balance, Bailey is proposing to pay for the following:

• $496,428 for roof and HVAC projects

• $250,000 for Main Street and Innes Street improvements

• $82,495 for police LiveScan and video software

• $31,000 for Old Concord Road sidewalks

• $50,000 for Bell Tower Green Park

• $357,027 to provide 5% pay increases for sworn police officers and 5% to 15% raises for certain public works positions

“We have experienced great difficulty recruiting in several departments with the greatest challenges in these two, and these increases are necessary to remain competitive with surrounding communities,” Bailey says about police and public works departments in his budget message.

The full proposed budget can be found at salisburync.gov/Government/Finance/Budget.

The Salisbury City Council will hold a public hearing about the budget on June 1 during its regularly scheduled meeting. It will also have a budget work session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday via digital meeting software Zoom.

In other changes, Bailey is recommending a 2% increase in water and sewer prices, which would increase the average bill for a customer using 4,000 gallons by $1.16. He says the increase is in line with the consumer price index for urban consumers in the South.

The budget also will include a $1.15 increase in residential curbside collection with one waste container and one recycling container and a proposed 8-cent increase to stormwater fees to offset inflation. The stormwater fee increase also would provide funds for stormwater projects to reduce flooding and pollution to maintain compliance with the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)  permit. Stormwater may be an area for use of federal American Recovery Plan funds due to the city, if eligible.

About 9.5 cents of the 71.96-cent property tax rate can be attributed to a $2.95 million transfer to the broadband fund, which pays for the debt on the city’s fiber-optic network managed by Hotwire. Bailey says the city is exploring the possibility of again refinancing the broadband debt to reduce tax payments.

About 1.64 cents, Bailey said, is for the city’s public transit system, which has experienced significant financial difficulties because of the pandemic. Bailey said he believes federal American Rescue Plan can help with the system’s financial woes. Bailey said COVID-19 relief funding may also be able to help Spencer and East Spencer resume funding routes through their communities.

Bailey is recommending postponing projects in the city’s capital improvement plan, which includes construction of a new fire station No. 3. The current station suffers from structural issues. Also in the capital improvement plan is construction of a second train platform at Salisbury Station, he said.

“We have committed to the project and will continue to review funding options to meet our commitment because passenger rail service is vital to our community’s economic future,” Bailey said in his budget message.

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