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Town Manager presents Spencer's FY 2022 budget recommendation

Public Hearing scheduled for June 8 Board of Aldermen meeting

SPENCER – Town Manager Peter Franzese presented his fiscal year 2021-22 budget recommendation to the Spencer Mayor and Board of Aldermen at a special meeting on Thursday, May 27. The proposed Town budget for FY22 totals $3,823,684, with $3,721,314 in the General Fund, and $102,370 in the Powell Bill Fund. The property tax rate is recommended to stay at the current 65.5 cents per 100 dollars of valuation.

Spencer has made considerable progress on the goals and priorities identified in the early 2020 public engagement session and Mayor and Board of Aldermen retreat, guided by a Strategic Plan. Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, which brought unprecedented challenges for Spencer and the entire world, Town elected officials and staff remain focused on community priorities. The FY22 Budget recommendation continues work to focus on several key areas outlined in the strategic plan.

The current year (FY20-21) budget brought better revenues than expected, and modest revenue growth is anticipated. The Town has also made significant investments in recruiting and retaining a talented staff, and construction of the new Town Hall and Police Department. The proposal accommodates full implementation of the new Pay Plan, including developmental increases for eligible staff. FY22 will be the first of 30 years of paying the debt service on the $2.8 million USDA loan that helped finance the $3.9 construction project to upfit part of the former Park Plaza shopping center for Town use.

Franzese recommended a State-authorized municipal vehicle tax that has not been included in the Town's budget before. North Carolina local governments are authorized to levy up to $30 in annual municipal vehicle tax, collected along with vehicle property taxes through the NC DMV vehicle registration process. Any amount above $5 must be restricted to street maintenance. The recommended budget adds a new $10 per vehicle municipal vehicle tax. Based on an estimated 2,000 vehicles a $10 vehicle tax would generate $10,000 in unrestricted General Fund Revenue, and $10,000 in Powell Bill Fund Revenue. As cars become more fuel efficient, or even fuel free, this revenue source allows the town to maintain to provide street maintenance and other service levels for vehicle owners.

Spencer's elected officials are focused on providing essential community services, and the proposed budget reallocates one position and adds another position in the Police Department to ensure adequate staffing at all times. It also expands part-time Firefighter staffing to eliminate gaps in coverage that have limited Spencer Fire Department response capabilities.

Other key recommendations include

  • reimagining the current Façade Grant program with two new programs: a Main Street Corridor Improvement Grant for commercial properties, and a Historic Preservation Grant for residential homes.
  • continuing support of local tourism and events, including marketing support for the North Carolina Transportation Museum.
  • purchasing software to improve Purchasing, budget, and financial reporting; provide electronic time and attendance methods; online plan review/permitting capabilities; code enforcement and public works issue tracking; and citizen communication.
  • updating the Comprehensive/Land Use Plan, to guide development in Town over the next 20 years.
  • participating as a host site for the Lead for North Carolina Fellowship program.
  • enhancing staff training, safety equipment, and safety testing programs.

The proposed budget includes an appropriation of $278,244 from the General Fund Balance, with $270,000 being the projected amount of current year revenues over expenditures, and a modest additional amount out of the existing undesignated balance. The recommendation also includes establishing a Capital Reserve Fund from some of the existing Fund Balance, to assist with planning and saving for capital investments. The proposal appropriates $185,245 of the Capital Reserve Fund to begin planning for a Fire Station addition, an LED lighting conversion at the Fire Station, vehicle purchases for Police and Public Works, and a variety of Technology upgrades that will provide efficiency and customer service improvements.

"Through the Mayor and Board of Aldermen's exciting vision, the people of Spencer can see a broad range of opportunities coming ahead," said Franzese. "The Town's investment in recruiting and retaining a talented, professional staff is already paying off. We will soon experience the benefit of the Town's investment in the new Town Hall and Police Department, which will allow staff to better serve the public and allow citizens to be more involved."

Franzese noted that needs are greater than the resources for Spencer and any other community. The Board has already discussed a wide range of projects, programs, and improvements to consider in the years to come. Spencer's next step is to build on these discussions with a capital improvement plan to prioritize needs and align them with funding mechanisms. The timing of the Federal American Rescue Plan over the next three years emphasizes the need for the community to plan how to best use local, state, federal, and philanthropic resources.

The Board of Aldermen will have the opportunity for a budget workshop at the June 3 pre-Agenda meeting (5:30 p.m.), and a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 8, 2021 during the regular meeting, starting at 6:00 p.m. Interested individuals can view the Town Manager's recommended budget at townofspencer.com and in print at the Town Clerk's office.