Town OKs budget, park fee changes

MIDDLETOWN — Middletown officials unanimously approved the town’s budget for the fiscal year 2015-16 in a special meeting Tuesday night.

Town Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said, “I think people will be thrilled that we’re being financially responsible.”

The final budget features an expected $2.34 million in revenue that is 15.9 percent higher than the approved 2015 budget of $1.96 million. It also does not include any tax or fee increases for the residents.

“What makes the budget higher is good news,” Harbaugh added. “We’re getting new Christmas decorations, we’re getting more park equipment and we’re getting our sewer and water lines fixed.”

Another factor adding to Middletown’s increased budget is the estimated meals tax revenues from the recently opened McDonald’s, located off of Reliance Rd.

Of the total $117 million in estimated meals tax revenue, $72,000 of that is expected to stem from McDonald’s, according to June 1 estimates from Town Treasurer Rebecca “Becky” Layman.

Harbaugh noted that the estimated meals tax revenue figures from McDonald’s are conservative and that the town is hoping that the figures are higher in the coming year.

On the whole, the town’s approved 2016 budget is expected to add $250,000 to its reserve fund.

“I’m thrilled about that bottom line number, putting that away for rainy days,” Harbaugh said, adding that any increased revenue from McDonald’s would increase that fund.

Council also approved a fee increase for the town park in a 4-2 vote. Daily fees will increase from the current rate of $25 to $50 starting July 1.

Town Vice Mayor Tom Simon voted against the increase, noting that he could not support the increase without seeing a cost structure for the expenses the town is looking to cover.

“I never got a clear explanation of the expenses,” Simon added. “I’m not even sure I want it to increase at all.”

Donald A. Riffey, town superintendent of public works, said he could not provide numbers off-hand on the amount of expenses the town is looking to cover.

“Somebody’s gotta dump the trash, somebody’s gotta pay to get rid of the trash, somebody’s gotta pay the guys to go out there, sweep the pavilion and clean all that up,” Riffey said.

Riffey added, “It’s the same thing as owning a house; you gotta pay for it.”

The approved budget also includes an addition of $1,500 to be used for a Christmas parade.

Council also voted unanimously to appoint county resident Tina Clem as the town’s Christmas parade director.

Clem helped organized a Christmas parade for the town last winter, as director of an independently formed special committee.

“The parade was a huge success, but we still had to put a lot of money out of our own pockets,” Clem said.

On Tuesday, Clem, along with the entire Christmas parade committee, approached council to discuss money that it had received in a recent fundraiser, which was then claimed by the town.

Clem said the situation started with two checks the committee received totaling $500 that were made out to the town of Middletown. She added that they donated the $500 to the town for its Christmas decoration fund.

“After that, we were asked to give over the rest of the money,” Clem said, adding that the committee was asking for the “money to be returned, except for the $500.”

Harbaugh, who serves on the town’s special committees, proposed Clem’s appointment following a 35-minute discussion between council members, Town Attorney David Griffin and the parade committee.

The council’s decision makes the Christmas parade a town-run event.

“I think this whole group can agree that this parade adds value aesthetically, financially,” Harbaugh said.

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