LOUISBURG -- The town council put its stamp of approval on the 2020-21 budget Monday night as it quickly plowed through a long agenda of fairly routine items during its first in-person, but socially distanced meeting since the beginning of the pandemic.
The budget, which passed unanimously after no one posed any questions during a public hearing, totals $14,728,197 and keeps the property tax rate for the coming year the same -- 45 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In Louisburg a penny on the tax rate generates about $28,910.
Here are some of the budget highlights:
• The solid waste budget is set at $394,235 -- and rates will remain unchanged during the next fiscal year. The town's crews will continue to provide twice a week back door pick-up and commercial service will continue to be contracted out with Waste Industries.
One change is that the town will be offering a trash truck rental service each Thursday and Friday to allow residents and businesses to handle large amounts of debris pickup instead of continuing to pile such debris on the curb for town crews to pick up.
The way the proposal now stands, the trash truck will be free to any resident twice a year but additional use of the service will cost $50 plus landfill services each time.
Town administrator Jonathan Franklin explained that this is designed to cope with the problem caused by large debris piles that may go for a few days before town crews can pick them up -- and which have become a burden, particularly as landlords often clean out houses or apartments, leaving everything on the curb.
•The town's electric rates will remain unchanged next year, keeping rates constant through 2021. The electric fund budget is about $7,552,454.
•The town's water rates will remain unchanged for the next year under the budget proposal. The water department budget is about $1.6 million.
•Town employees are to receive a 2.8 percent cost of living pay increase beginning July 1, but the budget does not include a merit pay increase this year.
•The town's general fund balance is expected to stay at about $2.4 million. The fund balance in the enterprise fund is expected to increase.
The fund balance in the electric department increased by about $95,000 last year to about $1.8 million.
The water and sewer funds have a total fund balance of about $1.4 million.
Franklin noted that the town's new industrial park development will require about $830,000 in local matching money, all of which will be allocated from the various utility enterprise funds.
Franklin told the council members that "this budget was prepared with focus on the town's long-term financial stability while allowing us to provide the highest quality services at the lowest possible costs."
He added that "we must be creative and promote our town's economy to maximize the generation of revenue that can be used to provide services and better our community."
Included in the proposed new budget are about $288,000 in capital outlay purchases, including about $129,000 to purchase a new backhoe for the public works department, a machine that will be used by both the water and sewer department.
In addition there is $25,819 allocated for dugouts, foul poles and a scoreboard for Joyner Park; $100,000 for two police cruisers; $15,189 for new LED lights for a fire truck; $2,022 for a new lawn mower and the remainder for various water and sewer improvements.
One other change is coming in the new budget is a different way to calculate the advance deposit required for new customers to connect to town utilities.
The council agreed to calculate the deposit by averaging the average cost of one month of service over the previous year.
In other action Monday night, the council:
•AGREED to sell about 4 acres of its newly acquired industrial park along T. Kemp Road to Activated Carbon Innovation, which is renovating a building there. The land was sold for $60,000 and has a tax value of about $35,920, according to town officials.
•APPROVED a text amendment to town ordinances which will allow mixed use development downtown. That means that the second and third floors of buildings with businesses on the first floor can be renovated for use as apartments or condominiums.
•OKAYED a text amendment that sets minimum parking requirements for buildings downtown. Previously very small building were exempt from providing parking but that will no longer be the case.
•APPROVED engineering services agreements with Municipal Engineering Services to oversee the $150,000 grants for both water and sewer improvements.
•SIGNED an agreement with the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments for administering a grant for the long-awaited water line improvements along Bullock Drive, Wright Street and Westover Road. The town received a $532,100 grant for the project and will pay the COG $17,000 to administer the grant.
•APPROVED $25,000 contract with IDF Grant Administration Services to administer the $2.4 million grant that is being used to develop the industrial park along T. Kemp Road. Franklin told the board that soil testing at the site has been delayed by the weather but should be completed by the end of June in time for a July closing on the property.
•LEARNED from Franklin that the town's application to the Tobacco Trust Fund for developing the Depot Hill project has "made it to the next step" and that town officials will submit additional information to the trust fund by the end of this week.
During the meeting, the council approved a new right of way agreement with local businessman David Womack to help with a driveway for the Depot Hill project.
Franklin expressed appreciation to Womack for the no-cost right-of-way agreement and said he hopes that when the Depot Hill project is complete it will help draw people to the South Louisburg area with an eye toward investment opportunities.
•WAS TOLD by Franklin that the town has received permission from all necessary property owners for the Franklin and Main Underground Power Project (near the post office) and that work should begin in July.