Landis officials in agreement on proposed budget, will consider adoption next month

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, May 24, 2022

LANDIS — The town board on Monday afternoon discussed and expressed agreement on the proposed 2022-23 fiscal year budget, which spends a little over $13 million while maintaining the tax rate, reducing car tag fees and providing an increased cost of living adjustment to account for inflation.

The budget, presented to the board of aldermen and mayor earlier this month, allocates $4.9 million to general fund, $2.2 million to water and sewer fund, $121,616 to stormwater fund and $6 million to electric fund expenses.

The property tax rate will remain the same at 53 cents per $100 valuation.

The budget is a $1.2 million, or a 10% increase, over the original 2022 budget. However, half of that increase is attributed to a new accounting methodology that “more accurately reflects administrative charges across funds,” according to Town Manager Diane Seaford’s budget overview.  

One of the driving factors behind the remaining 5% budget increase is an added $540,000 in personnel costs. About half of that cost accounts for a 5% cost of living adjustment and a 3% potential merit increase. Last year’s budget included a 2% cost of living adjustment, but Seaford said the town needs to keep pace with inflation by raising the adjustment for the next fiscal year.

“It is an opportunity to help our employees stay somewhat even from a buying power perspective,” Seaford said. “The current rate of inflation is over 8%, I think it’s at 8.4%, so that only makes them partially whole with the economic buying power they had at this same time last year.”

With inflation in mind, Finance Officer Chase Norwood told town officials that he’s budgeted a 30% increase in fuel costs across all departments. Included in the proposed budget is $30,000 for a Gasboy fuel dispenser for the Public Works fueling area. The new system will require each user to have an access device and it comes with a software that will provide reporting on usage. 

The board expressed their desire for the purchase of the system to be “prioritized” given the high cost of fuel. Seaford said the town will be prepared to purchase the system and software when the new budget goes into effect at the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

Considering the high costs of goods and services, the board on Monday agreed with reducing the vehicle registration fee from $30 to $20. 

“It throws a little nugget to a vehicle owner that resides in town,” Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart said.

The board spent several minutes discussing requests in the budget for the purchase of equipment and furniture from the police and fire departments. While the board didn’t nix funding for the equipment in the proposed budget, they did request that equipment and furniture be separated out as line items in the future.

The board also agreed to adding $40,000 to the proposed budget to cover costs associated with renovating the conference room and office space in Town Hall to make the space more usable.

The proposed budget calls for funding for three new positions for $149,000, $55,000 for retention and recruitment and $78,000 for a police officer that was approved in the last budget but not budgeted, along with promotions in the police department. Additionally, the budget accounts for a $166,000 increase in contingencies across all funds, a $73,000 increase in furniture and equipment to purchase smaller needed items.

Like other municipalities, the town isn’t incorporating American Rescue Plan Act funding into its fiscal year budget. Instead, the town has established a grant ordinance. The town will receive a total of $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, of which $606,509 has already been allocated for nine projects, including a downpayment for a new fire truck, purchase of a new leaf truck, funding for a fellow, a water and sewer line camera. The ARPA funding must be planned for by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

The town board will hold a hearing on the proposed 2022-23 fiscal year budget on June 13 at 6 p.m. before officially adopting the document. Information on meetings can be found online at townoflandisnc.gov.

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About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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