DAVIDSON – Budget talks continue for town officials who spent much of their April 8 meeting hashing out potential changes in the coming fiscal year. Discussed topics included the possibility of giving commissioners raises and seeing the options for leaf collection.
The board was faced with a list of departmental requests that have not yet been added to the budget, ranging from new carpet in the board meeting room to replacing police cars.
Finance Director Cindy Jones wanted to get a feel for commissioners’ opinions before adding them, though nothing was finalized.
Projected revenues could fulfill all of the additional costs if approved. Commissioner Stacey Anderson said they should also consider what it would take to lower the tax rate to make up for proposed increases in fees.
One such fee that has the potential to increase is the solid waste fee, especially if they add back leaf vacuum service. The town has issued several surveys and continues to seek input. It was previously taken away a few years ago, and residents must bag their leaves before placing them near the street.
Public Works Director Doug Wright said the additional work has encouraged people to compost or blow leaves into natural areas, but Commissioner Jim Fuller said it is difficult physically for many residents to bag their leaves.
“It’s not just inconvenient, but also expensive,” he said. “You go rake and bag or hire someone if you aren’t up to doing that. It ends up being a heavy cost whether in taxes or a separate fee for a worker.”
Wright said Davidson may not be able to contract the service out as previously thought and would have to handle it in-house. Depending on if the town has an automated truck only requiring a driver versus a tow-behind operation, which requires a driver and two staff handling the vacuum, could mean the difference of several thousand dollars.
Commissioners asked for costs of the full scope of the project, including tipping fees, how often and for how long leaf collection would last and how that affects public works staffing.
The board also held off on making an opinion about a potential commissioner salary increase. During her presentation, Jones pointed out that commissioners’ salaries are less than other communities their size.
Commissioners get paid $3,356 a year, though the average benchmark communities make $5,670 – with the lowest salaries being $4,251.
Commissioner Brian Jenest said he felt the board should at least get to the lowest salary.
Mayor John Woods, whose salary is already established, acknowledged that they all serve in a voluntary capacity and the money barely covers incurred expenses. He suggested considering the increase and then looking at how to handle future salary changes later.
Commissioners Rodney Graham and Fuller were more hesitant, feeling uncomfortable talking about giving themselves a raise or the repercussions that could follow.
Fuller wanted to wait and put it as a separate agenda item before adopting to ensure residents are aware and can voice an opinion.
The budget proposal in its entirety will be available for public scrutiny once it is completed and a public hearing date will be set prior to the board’s vote. The budget would take effect July 1.