SILER CITY — The start of the New Year also marks the unofficial start of the budget creation process for local governments, and the Town of Siler City’s commissioners and department heads kicked …
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SILER CITY — The start of the New Year also marks the unofficial start of the budget creation process for local governments, and the Town of Siler City’s commissioners and department heads kicked off the 2020-21 budget process with a budget retreat Saturday to focus on discussions on operational and personnel costs in the first of what will be a series of monthly budget workshops.
At this early stage in the process, budget requests are generally far higher than what will be in the finalized spending plan. In fact, the budget requests discussed Saturday did not include changes in salary or benefits, financial impacts of requests for additional staff, nor anticipated revenues since that information will not be available until early Spring.
At the same time, the meeting allowed each department head time to discuss their needs and the commissioners to ask questions relating to their requests. The meeting was merely a snapshot of the budget requests for the board to prepare for ongoing budget discussions.
Some increases in the budget will likely be required. For example, the Governing Board budget line item, which includes salaries for the board, non-profit funding and other expenses, will likely need an increase of approximately $38,000. The main reason for the increase is costs for the upcoming election, anticipated to be approximately $15,000, and a mandated Census map which will likely cost $20,000. The board had already agreed in the last budget cycle to base the non-profit funding on 1.5 percent of the town’s tax revenue, which is expected to be approximately $76,000.
Other areas that are likely to require increases are the utility and public works departments. The public works department, which maintains public grounds and vehicles, will likely see increases due to the closure of the transfer station near Walmart on U.S. Hwy. 64 and paving and sidewalk projects that need to be completed. Both the town’s water and wastewater treatment plants are expected to incur additional costs due to increased demands because of the opening of Mountaire’s poultry processing facility as well as required improvements to maintain its permits with the state.
The Siler City Fire Department, which added new staff this budget year, is requesting increases to support those new firefighters. The department is also seeking funds to begin the process of acquiring land and plans for a new fire station. The current station in downtown Siler City has no room for expansion and new employees do not have sleeping quarters, according to Chief Scott Murphy.
Several departments are requesting additional personnel, though estimated costs per new employee are not yet determined. The finance department, the utility department, the license plate agency, the planning department, parks and recreation and the police department are all requesting additional personnel. All departments requested one additional staff member while the police department requested five additional staff, who must also be fully equipped with gear and vehicles. Though the estimated salaries were not calculated, the police department requested an increase of approximately $475,000 prior to the inclusion of salary increases.
At the same time, several departments are requesting new vehicles to replace ones nearing the end of their life-spans. Numerous sub-departments within the utility and public works departments are requesting new vehicles as well as the police department. During the Saturday budget meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Larry Cheek requested a full accounting of all town-owned vehicles, including which departments use them and an evaluation of each vehicle’s condition.
The board will hold a budget workshop each month to focus on individual areas of the budget such as non-profit funding requests, employee salaries and benefits, improvements to the water and wastewater plants and a review of all town owned vehicles to determine how best to proceed. Those meetings are tentatively scheduled for Thursdays in the weeks which fall in between the board’s regularly scheduled Monday meetings.
Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.