Roanoke Rapids City Council began budget deliberations Tuesday and will continue the process Thursday at 5:15 p.m. when it studies proposals from public works, parks and recreation, general administration, human resources and Main Street.
The Thursday meeting will be held at Lloyd Andrews City Meeting Hall.
On Tuesday council reviewed the proposed budgets of the police, fire and planning and development departments.
City Manager Joseph Scherer said the priorities for the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget include maintaining current levels of services and staffing, no layoffs or employment benefit reductions, city appearance improvements and improved street maintenance.
The city is also planning the next fiscal year budget with no plans for a tax increase.
What the city is seeing, Scherer said, is some revenue sources are trending down while state-mandated pension contribution costs are up. “That hit us hard,” he said, the figure up by 1.5 percent.
Health insurance costs are up slightly and landfill costs are up by $3 to $5 per ton. Equipment maintenance costs are up.
Scherer also told council for the city to have a one-stop voting site it will cost between $4,000 to $18,000. “We must pay the entire cost. I have asked for a detailed list.”
As it stands from Tuesday’s budget session there is an $830,315 gap between what the city expects to bring in through revenue sources and what all city department heads have requested.
With its fund balance at 22 percent, Finance Director Leigh Etheridge said balancing the budget with fund balance would bring that percentage down to an estimated 20 to 21 percent.
The police department has requested $3,409,615.
Revenue sources are as follows:
Ad valorem tax revenues $6,945,131
Motor vehicle licenses $735,187
Interest earnings $50,555
Utility franchise taxes $1,447,529
Beer and wine tax $72,000
Powell Bill allotment $448,162
Sales tax $3,400,333
Residential solid waste user fees $1,488,220
The total revenue forecast is $16,670,261.
The police department’s most pressing needs are new body cameras and radios; making up for an increase in ammunition costs; equipment to outfit a special response team and meeting an increase in vehicle maintenance costs.
Interim police Chief Bobby Martin said there are grants available for the body cameras and radios.
Equipping the SRT would get that unit reestablished, Martin said. The unit would be on call for high risk warrants and hostage situations. A hostage situation on Old Farm Road earlier this year required the use of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Hazardous Entry and Arrest Team, Martin said. If funded, Martin said the city’s SRT would train and work together with HEAT.
The fire department’s proposed budget comes in at $2,128,645.
Its most pressing needs are a server upgrade; radio replacement; Station 1 heating and air and a pickup.
Chief Jason Patrick said the server upgrade has been needed for a couple of years.
Patrick said the heating and air at Station 1 is now around 22 years old and the refrigerant is no longer manufactured. “They do make a supplement but it’s not as efficient.”
The planning department’s proposed budget is $633,260.
The department’s most pressing needs are part-time administrative help; an increase in the demolition budget and a pickup.
In discussion of the part-time employee, Councilman Wayne Smith told Planning and Development Director Kelly Lasky, “Your department produces revenue for the city. I can’t see how a part-time employee is better than a full-time employee.”
While Scherer said the department heads are trying to be frugal with budget proposals, Smith countered the department “is not going to be efficient with part-time help.”
The current administrative assistant “has excelled beyond a basic administrative assistant,” Lasky said. “She’s become more of a project manager.”
Smith said it would be more efficient to have the current administrative assistant, Kristyn Anderson, working with Lasky, the building inspectors and code enforcement officers.
Said Scherer: “We’ll see if we can budget a full time person for that position.”
The budget schedule after Thursday’s meeting is as follows:
Week of May 13: Additional work sessions if needed
May 21: Presentation of recommended budget and budget message to council
June 4: Public hearing on budget
June 18: 2019-20 budget ordinance presented to council for final review and adoption