The focus of Roanoke Rapids City Manager Joseph Scherer for the upcoming fiscal year budget is to improve salaries and benefits, public safety, infrastructure repair and keep facilities open.
He presented these matters to city council Tuesday night during its work session and has set a series of work sessions to further delve into the financial plan.
No new taxes or use of fund balance is projected and city service levels are planned to remain the same.
“While we have developed a basic budget, there are several unknowns impacting next year’s budget,” he said, one being the city has looked into department improvements for using American Rescue Plan funding. The city is awaiting United States Treasury guidance on permitted uses for the funds.
(Budget work sessions are scheduled for April 13 and April 15 at 3 p.m. in the Lloyd Andrews City Meeting Hall on Jackson Street)
The city is expected to receive $4.19 million in ARP funding — $2 million by June and the remainder a year later.
Some factors that may swing in the city’s favor include the economy appears to be picking up, there are talks of Powell Bill funding being restored to previous levels, and a potential $71,000 in savings from 911 expenses.
However, health insurance costs currently trend toward a 7.7 percent increase although he said there is the potential for a reduced rate.
The city manager said frozen personnel positions will remain in place unless department resources can be shown as reallocated for position funding or a case can be made for additional funding.
Other issues the council should consider in the draft budget include:
Capital projects or equipment the city needs for the next year and the next two to three after
Information technology hardware and software upgrades
Raising fees for services to increase the revenue stream
A draft budget which reflects realistic amounts based upon historic revenue totals and known loan or debt loads
He said unfinanced requirements in draft budgets without adequate resourcing complicate budget reviews.
Scherer has instructed the finance director to create a new cost center for human resources where major benefit expenses will be tracked and used for those expenditures such as drug tests and health related expenses.
The city will also be looking at the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau for funding of projects through its board’s occupancy tax funds.
The amount requested from the bureau is as follows:
$15,000 for trail maintenance
$12,000 for outdoor furniture for the 1026 Urban Green Space
$4,000 to complete the Chockoyotte Park batting cages and parking lot improvements needed for state and regional girl’s softball tournaments
$8,000 for Christmas in the Park professional features, electrical upgrades, and outlets on Centennial Park light poles to support the features
Revenue forecasts are between $15 million and $16 million with $16.9 million already submitted in budget requests.