Faith aldermen hold public hearing for proposed budget, plan to keep current tax rate

Published 12:05 am Sunday, June 16, 2024

FAITH — The Faith Board of Aldermen moved on Tuesday to hold off on approving the budget for the upcoming fiscal year until June 26, when the town has a year-end meeting scheduled.

During the regularly-scheduled meeting, however, the aldermen did hold the public hearing for the budget. The proposed budget holds most rates and expenses steady from the past year, including the property tax rate, which would stand at 41 cents per $100 of property valuation.

Mayor Randall Barger opened the hearing by speaking about some of the challenges the town currently faces, which included having to hire firefighters due to a decrease in volunteerism, the increasing costs of police coverage and an increase in costs to maintain the town’s water system, which is nearly 50 years old.

“We just don’t have any industry and so that means that you, the homeowner, is going to have to share that burden and so you’re looking at at least 10 cents for us to go up to, maybe even more. We don’t want to do that, we live here too, we don’t want to have to do that,” Barger said.

One resident asked during the public hearing if the members of the board of aldermen had looked into state federal grants specifically to pay for the expansion of the fire department and the water system repairs. Alderman Jayne Lingle pointed to the town’s recent hiring of engineering firm Garver, who they hope to have work on a long-term infrastructure plan for the town.

“We have somebody right now that we’re working with for a five-, 10- or 20-year plan and that’s not something that the town had done in the past, to my knowledge. When you’re trying to get grants, it’s not just a matter of writing on a piece of paper. It’s a huge process and if you don’t have a plan in place they tend to overlook you,” said Lingle.

Several residents also asked about the agreement with Granite Quarry governing the Granite Quarry-Faith Joint Police Authority, saying that they did not believe that they were receiving enough coverage to warrant the price. The proposed budget included an approximately $175,000 payment towards the agreement, up from $161,500 from the past fiscal year. That number constitutes approximately 17 percent of the total joint police authority budget.

Barger stated that he had approached county officials about the potential for the sheriff’s office to provide coverage, so that town officials could be aware of the full range of options the town holds. He received a quote of approximately $500,000 from the county, which he said was well beyond the town’s capabilities. Mayor Pro Tem Dale Peeler noted that the cost to the town to start an independent department would be more than that, citing salaries and benefits for new officers as well as equipment and vehicle purchases.

After the public hearing, Peeler and Town Clerk Karen Fink also brought up several adjustments that they wanted considered for the budget. Peeler presented the idea of worker’s compensation insurance for the town’s newly-employed and volunteer firefighters, which would add injury, death and disability coverage.

“The premium would be $3,200 a year, which averages out to about $100 per fireman, to give them all the coverage and make sure their families are protected if something happens,” said Peeler.

Fink presented an increase in the zoning officer’s budget of $500, which would allow for a $2 increase in Zoning, Planning and Code Enforcement Officer Sam Henline’s wage and allow him to work more hours on Thursdays. She also noted that the public works department received two quotes for lighting on the town’s John Deere UTV. One quote submitted was for approximately $1,350 and the other for approximately $1,950.

At the end of the discussion, the aldermen asked Fink to include the insurance, zoning and public works increases to the budget and agreed to vote on the budget during the year-end meeting, which they scheduled for June 26 at 10 a.m.