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Landis adopts budget with reduction in residential electric rates, no tax increases

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — The town board on Monday adopted the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, which spends $12 million across all funds and reduces residential electric rates.

The 2021-22 budget, which begins July 1, allocates $4.01 million to general fund, $2.04 million to water and sewer fund, $107,787 to stormwater fund and $5.86 million to electric fund expenses. It is about 5% less than the budget passed for 2020-21.

Town Manager Diane Seaford credits the budget decrease to the elimination of an annual rebate from ElectriCities, a decrease in electric rates offset by increased usage, higher sales tax revenue than previously anticipated and use of savings in the current fiscal year to pave some streets and pay off some debts. The budget also allowed for cost-of-living adjustments for town employees and the implementation of a performance review session.

In the general fund, Seaford said changes to salaries and benefits for town employees account for the bulk of savings. Additionally, the town saved some money by splitting public safety salaries between Director Zachary Lechette and Assistant Director Kevin Young.

Beginning July 1, residential electric customers will see a 1-cent electric rate reduction, resulting in $327,217 of lost revenue in the electric fund. However, the town’s growth is expected to make up for that reduction. That’s also without a nearly $1 million annual rebate from ElectriCities during the current fiscal year.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, the town budgeted $4.06 million in general fund expenses, $2.19 million in water and sewer fund expenses, $98,500 in stormwater fund expenses and $6.68 million in the electric fund expenses.

In the stormwater fund, the increase for 2021-22 is primarily attributed to $25,000 needed for a stormwater plan.

In addition to a 2% cost-of-living adjustment, the budget includes a 3% potential merit increase beginning in October to address high levels of turnover.  The cost-of-living adjustment amounts to an additional $58,000 in the general fund, while the merit increase will cost up to $60,000. Department heads will determine whether staff are eligible for a pay raise up to 5%, with hopes that pay increases will average to 3% across the board.

Landis’ budget was submitted to the Local Government Commission for review prior to adoption. Program Analyst Mark Baker told the town in an email that the budget “appears to comply with the provisions of the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act.”

The budget also includes $65,000 in capital for the town’s recreation department to cover the costs of a new cabin and playground at Lake Corriher Wilderness Park.

Resident Nadine Cherry spoke during the public comment period and said she was not in favor of relocating some playground equipment to Lake Corriher Wilderness Park.

The 2021-22 budget also includes a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to pave the town’s most critical streets at a total cost of $450,000.

Additionally, the cost to residents for a second trash can will increase from $8 to $10.

The budget supports the hiring of three new firefighters, a part-time police position, a shift from one part-time recreation position to full-time and a position intended to split the duties between electric services and water services. A total of $1.91 million is allocated to the Public Safety Department, which combines police officers and fire fighters.

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