Town holds hearing on budget

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Stephens City Town Council held a public hearing on the town’s 2015-2016 proposed budget, which will take effect July 1.

The proposed budget will spend $1.09 million in the general fund, which covers the town’s insurance, police department, fire and rescue, public works department and administration work. The proposed budget will have a $6,000 increase in revenue and a $249,100 increase in expenditures.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Mike Grim said he wanted to clarify the rise in revenue is due to the new assessment of property value by Frederick County, not an increase in taxes. Mike Majher, assistant town manager, said the town had to readjust its tax rate to reflect the assessment, in terms of revenue projections.

Majher also noted the $28,000 increase in sales tax revenue is mostly due to the expansion of the town’s Sheetz and new businesses coming to town.

The public works budget will increase 57.5 percent, from $286,900 in 2014-2015 to $452,000 in the proposed budget. However, $150,000 of that increase is tied up a streetscape enhancement grant the town will apply for, Majher said.

“We put that in as a place holder, so while I don’t want to say that amount is fictitious, it doesn’t exist right now,” he said. “If we don’t get the grant, then that money will go away, both on the revenue and expenditure sides of the budget.”

The police department will see a 16.3 percent increase, from $364,400 in 2014-2015 budget to $424,000 in the proposed budget. Majher said the increase is mostly due to the hiring of a new officer and another officer receiving a pay raise. The vehicle budget was also doubled, from $5,000 to $10,000 due to the potential purchase of a police car, Majher said.

Administration saw a 12.8 percent increase, from $159,100 in 2014-2015 to $179,500 in the proposed budget. Majher said the main reason for the increase was due to moving portions of the administrative expenditures from the utility fund to the general revenue fund.

“Some departments were moved more into the general fund and out of the utility fund,” he said. “We had a percentage way of dividing administrative cost, so it used to be 40 percent in general, 60 in utility or something along those lines, now it’s either 50 percent in either fund or its been completely moved to general.”

Majher added, “A lot of it has to do with our software system. We have a really old system that will hopefully be upgraded this year and with that we’re trying to align our budget so it’s easier to transfer into that system. We’ve got way too many line items for a town of this size and hopefully, we can make it easier for people to read, as well.”

The proposed budget has $740,000 allocated to the town’s utility fund, which encompasses water and sewer service. This would be $212,650 decrease in the town’s utility fund, mostly due to the shift in administrative cost towards the general fund, Majher said.

In terms of revenue, the utility fund will raise $159,000 more than last year. However, as with the general fund, there is no rate increase, Majher said. Sale of water will increase by 49 percent, from $163,000 to $243,000, and sale of sewer service will rise 21 percent, from $380,000 to $460,000.

Majher said the rise in those two revenue sources is mostly due to higher water usage, both residential and commercial.

“We have seen increased usage, so some of that is going off our data and accounting for that,” he said. “Some of that is also just from the new businesses … I know Sheetz will be increasing its usage, too.”

The utility fund’s water service expenditures are expected to drop 16 percent, from $170,400 to $143,000. Sewer will drop by 26 percent, from $558,700 to $413,000. Administrative costs will drop by 19.9 percent, from $208,550 to $167,000.

Majher said the budget should be adopted by either May or June, depending on council’s schedule.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com