Middletown leaders, new treasurer begin budget work

By Alex Bridges

MIDDLETOWN — The town has a new treasurer, and just in time to help leaders put together next year’s budget.

Middletown Town Council chose municipal clerk Rebecca “Becky” Layman to take over the treasurer’s position after a months-long search for a replacement. Layman, 41, has worked for the town for about six years, first as deputy clerk and then clerk. Layman goes from making a salary of about $35,000 to $42,000.

The town had been without a treasurer since late January. With Layman serving as treasurer, the town will now search for a new municipal clerk. At a work session Monday, council agreed to advertise for that position.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said the town made a good move by picking Layman.

“We’re looking forward to the smooth transition,” Harbaugh said after the work session.

Town Council took its first stab at the fiscal 2015 budget on Monday. While they did not have many numbers to go by, council members agreed on one point — the town needs a simpler spending plan.

Councilwoman Carole Snyder pointed out that the town’s budget contains 400 line items and spans more than 20 pages. The budget contains lines for spending on all facets of government, down to office supplies.

“This is absolutely a nightmare,” Snyder told council. “It is a nightmare for Becky when she is trying to … charge the money to the line items.”

Snyder suggested that council streamline the budget by creating broader categories to cover government functions and spending. She also suggested that the town should create a petty cash section in the budget to allow for spending on smaller items. Snyder noted that the budget format used by council likely would differ from the one the administrators and departments would have.

“It might eliminate a lot of the re-appropriation headaches that we’ve had this year,” Snyder said.

Town Council has had to take action twice this fiscal year to move money from one line item to another as spending needs arose. Council also has had to hold public hearings on each of those occasions.

Council started work on the next budget later than usual and now faces a tight deadline to come up with a budget and set tax rates. The town also must advertise and hold public hearings for the new budget and the tax rates.

Council has not yet looked into the town’s tax rates or utility fees, Layman said after the meeting.

Harbaugh asked Public Works Superintendent Donald A. Riffey and police Chief R. Philip Breeden if they expect to see their spending needs change from the current fiscal period to next year. Breeden told council he expects to spend less money in fiscal 2015. Riffey said he’s still putting together his budget but expects to see his budget increase.

Harbaugh said after the work session he supported the move to streamline the budget.

“We’re excited to get to a more simplified budget process,” Harbaugh said. “This way it makes it easier on council and staff to decide how to use the money. It puts the ball in the department heads’ hands, so to speak, and they can decide how best to manage their budgets.”

The budget includes line items for dry cleaning, employee training and payroll taxes, among other spending amounts, Harbaugh said. Council wants to know the budgets for departments but should avoid micromanaging their spending, Harbaugh explained.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com