The Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners passed a $2.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year in a 2-1 vote this week, a spending measure that keeps town taxes essentially level.
The budget, which is up by slightly more than $100,000 from the current year, draws $43,580 from the fund balance.
Many categories for both general fund and enterprise fund revenues and expenditures have been consolidated from the previous year, making it difficult to track what department is getting what and how much.
A section of the budget calls for the authorization of a “budget officer” who may reallocate amounts between the departments “without limitation and without a report.”
The tax rate dropped from 58 cents per $100 valuation of property to 57 cents.
Public safety’s appropriation dropped from $583,125 to $567,990.
Commissioner Kim Quinn voted against the budget, having questioned Interim Town Manager/Finance Officer Michael Boaz about an added $20,000 appropriation for professional fees.
Considering the shuffling of departments within the budget, Boaz indicated the appropriation reflects a net increase of $7,000 going toward third party services, such as the town’s contract with All American Associates, the consulting firm which placed Boaz in his current position.
Quinn asked Boaz what percentage of the monthly payment to All American went toward his salary.
“I’ll be honest with you that’s none of your business,” Boaz said.
“That’s not a public record?” Quinn said.
“No, my agreement with Ron is not public record,” Boaz said, referring to All American Associates president Ronald Niland.
The contract was established in late September with the added benefit that the company would assist the town in finding a permanent town manager, grant writing and management services, according to earlier media reports.
The contract ostensibly saved the town $20,000, those reports indicate.
Quinn questioned if All American had written any grant applications since the company was hired, and noted that a permanent manager had yet to be hired.
“We’ve had two grants written by another company,” Quinn said.
“So there’s $20,000 plus going into grant writing skills, and a portion for you that’s not to be disclosed tonight, and I just question that we already have grants being written by someone else, so there’s a duplication of work. And with the town’s need of street repairs, sidewalks, a full-time (police) officer, an additional (police) car,” Quinn stated.
Boaz explained that All American Associates had been working on getting more than 20 easements required for a creek restoration and greenway construction project.
“My question is how much of that $20,000 a year is going to that,” Quinn said. “It seems like we’re duplicating efforts.”
Quinn also questioned a $15,000 increase in travel expenses for a future manager of a flat fee, “but we’re not putting any money, I believe, zero, into sidewalks,” she said.
Boaz pointed to $30,000 available for capitol improvements which would include sidewalk projects.
“I’m not sure what the answer is for Boyle Street,” he said, adding, “There is money and will be money spent on street improvements during the course of 16/17 but it may not be the project everybody wants.”
He acknowledged that “travel is up in admin, to some extent, yes,” that includes a flat amount of about $6,000 provided to a future manager for travel expenses.
The manager would not have to track or be accountable for any expenses.
“It’s true the town has never done that in the past but, most managers are going to require that or a vehicle be provided,” he said. “They’re not going to use their personal vehicle for town related expenses. It’s unfair to expect them to.”
Police Chief Darryl Bottoms noted that town managers had in the past driven one of the department’s vehicles.
“It’s only a budget item,” Boaz said. “Just because it’s budgeted doesn’t mean you have to offer it.”
Mayor Dwight Atkins and Commissioners Linda Needham and Gary Bell voted in favor of the budget, and Quinn voted against.
Commissioner Cordie Armstrong was not present for the vote.
• At Armstrong’s request, the monthly board meetings will begin at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
• The board unanimously adopted a proposed fee schedule for 2016-2017. The fee for monthly residential garbage collection has changed to $10 and changes to planning and zoning fees include a change to the current $200 fee for any permit. The new schedule includes a fee according to use such as a $30 fee for minor additions or changes.
• The board unanimously approved a grant application for $300,000 non matching grant for the greenway project.
• Local artist Sylvia Lawson was recognized and presented with a town flag for designing the town seal in the 1990s. “We will cherish it for many years,” Atkins said.
• The board voted to extend its contract with Waste Management Inc. for an extra year in exchange for the company providing citizens with new trash bins.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.