By Alex Bridges
NEW MARKET - Town officials plan to spend more to run the government the next fiscal year without a tax increase.
Town Council held a public hearing Monday night on the proposed fiscal 2014 budget. Town Manager Evan Vass presented his proposed budget to council, but members have to wait at least a week before they can approve the spending plan. Council members made no comments about the budget as proposed.
Council heard from one person, Sonny Mongold, who commended members on the budget and some of the town's accomplishments.
"I think we've got something to be proud of in New Market when it comes to our public works and how our budget is made," Mongold said.
Mongold shifted to an issue he said would affect future budgets - whether the county decides to keep a temporary lockup facility in Woodstock for prisoners heading to the new regional jail in Warren County when it opens next year.
Mongold recalled that at the numerous meetings he attended on the regional jail, a lockup was "always in the picture." If a New Market police officer makes an arrest near the end of his or her shift, Mongold said the effort to transport the prisoner to the regional jail and process the matter would lead to overtime pay for the agent. Mongold said the process would take approximately six hours. Police Chief Charles M. Peery concurred with Mongold's time estimate.
"I think Big Brother is trying to balance his checkbook at the town's expense," Mongold said. "You know we pay taxes, too, in New Market."
Councilman Charles E. Litten concurred.
"We're going to have to watch that for next year," Litten said. "You're right. I think Big Brother's trying to pass it down to us."
Vass noted that he is now part of a committee of local officials looking at whether the county should maintain the current jail in Woodstock as a lockup area when the regional facility opens. Vass reminded council the regional jail is scheduled to open in July 2014 and the town would not incur costs until fiscal 2015.
Vass has proposed a general fund of $1.46 million that includes money for merit pay increases to staff. That amount reflects a 16 percent reduction in spending from $2.23 million in the current budget.
At the same time, Vass' budget assumes an increase of 2.2 percent in the operating expenses of the general fund and 6.6 percent for maintenance in the water and sewer fund.
Vass went through the proposed budget by departments, noting where the town would need to spend money to replace equipment, software or other items.
The proposed budget calls for a 3.5-percent increase in water and sewer charges and raising the refundable customer deposit on such accounts to $175. Vass has proposed no other tax increases.
The new budget does not include funding for a fireworks display. The current budget allocated $9,975 for July 4 fireworks.
In the current fiscal period, the town completed improvements to Shady Lane and the second phase of the streetscape project that cost $856,000, according to budget figures. New Market does plan to spend $43,000 on improvements to the community park, including the remodeling of a bathroom, sealing the parking lot and installation of a fence. The total appropriation for capital spending will be reduced from $926,500 in the current budget to $130,000 next fiscal year.
Vass' budget also calls for more spending by the administration. The town would spend $15,000 to redevelop its website, and will pay $21,000 out of the general fund toward the cost of replacing financial management software. Another $21,000 for that software will be paid out of the the water and sewer account.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org