Town discusses budget, park fee increases

Middletown officials are looking into a possible fees increase at the town park for the fiscal year 2016.

At a special meeting Monday night, council looked at estimated revenues for the 2016 budget that could provide the town a boost in its reserve funds.

Based on conservative fiscal estimates from town treasurer Rebecca “Becky” Layman, the town would have a little more than $245,000 in reserve funds coming out of the next fiscal cycle.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the town discussed instituting a fee increase from the current rate of $25 to $50 at the park located off of Senseney Avenue and Second Street.

Council has noted that the park is in need of infrastructure fixes. The fee increase would go toward that as well as covering utility costs for party rentals.

Although the town reached a consensus on a flat-rate fee of $50, there was discussion of split fees for in town and out-of-town visitors, hourly-based rates and a high flat rate of $75.

Councilman Scott Fink said, “I believe that we should keep it at one flat rate in town and out of town … start out small and then we’ll work up, as long as that covers our expenses.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Aliff and town treasurer Rebecca “Becky” Layman noted that creating separate fees for in town and out of town residents might drive away tourism.

Layman’s estimates for 2016 include a possible meals tax revenue spike from the 2014 year-to-date figure of $44,471 to $75,000, $30,000 of which is estimated to come from the new McDonald’s on Reliance Rd.

Layman said that the estimated proposed revenue increase was based on one month’s worth of meal’s tax data from McDonald’s.

“I’m just taking the $1,200 and multiplying it by 12,” Layman noted. “I honestly think that it would be even more than that, but … I’d rather start with that.”

May Charles Harbaugh IV noted that, if the actual meal’s tax revenue is higher, that it could provide more revenue for the town to put in reserves.

Council also discussed possibly providing funding for its annual 4th of July celebration.

Harbaugh noted that, privately, he has raised an average of about $4,000 per year for the town’s 4th of July celebration, a total of around “$30,000 in seven years.”

“The town used for pay for it all,” Harbaugh noted. “We got a sponsorship from BB&T that paid for most of the fireworks. The town would cover the other costs.”

Harbaugh added that his predecessor wanted to cut that funding on the condition that the festival was self-sufficient. “When I took over, I just continued that, but it’s a little unreasonable, I think.”

The town has received $2,000 in funding from local sponsorships for this year’s event. Council decided to create a line item for the town to provide matching funds.

Councilman George Smith said, “I agree with matching what is being donated, and then you have your fundraisers to tack on whatever the difference is.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, council approved ordinance changes that will effectively prohibit apartment construction and limit building height in Middletown’s historic district.

Regarding the apartment ordinance, Councilman Jeff Pennington said, “We decided to go ahead and do that as a preliminary move to protect the historic district.”

The town already requires a special-use permit for developers looking to construct townhouses within the district.

“I’m not anti-business at all,” Pennington said. “But if you look up and down [Main Street], we have strip malls that are half empty.

“What I’d like to do is … I want to see small businesses come into existing buildings in town and re-purpose some of these buildings.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com