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Town of Warsaw mulls water and fire in budget

Posted on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:27 am

John Slusser, Warsaw town manager

On Monday, the Warsaw Finance Committee recommended presenting a budget of $2,207,265 to town council with a significant increase in the water fund and a questionable figure stricken from the proposal.

On April 1, the committee chose to budget $957,665 for the general fund, $489,600 in water and $760,000 for the sewer fund.

The proposed budget incorporated an increase of $281,770 in the water budget from revenue projections of $212,330 for fiscal year 2013.

A loan from People’s Community Bank provided for $277,500 of the increase. Town officials will use $252,500 of the loan to replace well #3 in town and allocate $25,000 to Resource International.

Revenues for the water and sewer fund will range from $700,000 to $740,000 in wastewater user fees and potentially include a $40,000 transfer from the general fund, depending on the rate schedule that the town decides to use.

Town Manager John Slusser noted the rates would be necessitated by the budget; therefore, the committee could not recommend one of three schedules that were recommended to the council by Draper Aden Associates on Tuesday, March 19.

He added that discussion of the rates would be included in the public hearing for the budget.

The proposed general fund initially consisted of $960,165 in revenues and expenditures, but the committee decided against a $2,500 increase in tax contributions to the Richmond County Volunteer Fire Department, a number which Slusser called “controversial.”

For at least the past two years, the budget accounted for a $7,500 contribution, but Slusser recommended a total of $10,000 after he and Mayor Mark Milstead said the fire department sent a letter requested additional aid from the town.

According to Milstead, the added contribution of $2,500 would assist in the maintenance of the fire squad’s vehicles.

Slusser said the question was one of whether or not Warsaw residents wanted to pay taxes for functions that they were already paying for through the county, such as the fire squad and public library.

“Is this a county expense or a town expense?” said Slusser. “Those things that are supported by the county don’t necessarily need to be supported through the town because town residents pay their share of county taxes.

Slusser noted that an additional $2,500 was not a significant amount of money; however, he considered the principle of the matter to be of concern to the community.

“The argument can be made, through town and county taxes, town residents pay a disproportionate share of the expense,” Slusser added.

Wayne Williams, chair of the committee, did not favor the increase.

“I’m in favor of decreasing,” said Williams.

Committee members Wendy Nesbit and Sherry Pierson agreed to keep the contribution at $7,500.

There was also discussion prompted by Williams on eliminating or minimizing a yearly contribution of $8,000 to the Main Street Initiative.

“We weren’t supposed to have a line item [for the initiative] every year,” said Williams, who added that council was supposed to have begun gradually decreasing its contribution per year.

“It’s supposed to be self-supportive,” Williams said of the Main Street Program. “So far, I haven’t seen too much self-support.”

Williams also worried about the Main Street initiative and similar programs mushrooming within the budget.

Slusser said council would be making a terrible mistake if it detracted funds from the initiative, which he claimed was “doing more for the town than any other single program that we had had in the last ten years.”

“We’re talking less than 1 percent of the total budget to support Main Street,” Slusser stressed. “If the town cut the $8,000 contribution, I think that would probably have a devastating effect on the progress and morale [of the program].”

Milstead suggested to the committee that they not make changes to the contribution anytime soon.

“You’re not going to get me to want to decrease the amount because I’m all for the Main Street [Initiative],” said Milstead, who added that he thought it the best thing that had happened to the town “in a long time.”

He added that it was too early in the program’s life span to reduce the town’s aid.

“I think you’d pull the rug out from under their feet if you did it right now,” Milstead told the committee, which decided against recommending a change in the contribution to the initiative.