, 2014

Hearing on a proposed
$135,726 budget is open
and shut in White Stone

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

WHITE STONE—It took council all of five minutes last week to open and close a public hearing and discuss the town’s proposed 2014 budget.

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No one attended the public hearing on the $135,726 budget, which reflects a decrease in local sales tax revenue and a decrease in expenses for public safety and patrol.

Public safety, which includes vehicle expenses, payroll and related expenses for the town’s police services, will decrease from $66,846 to $47,680 for the fiscal year 2014. Despite the cut, public safety continues to be the greatest expenditure in the town’s budget.

Central administration expenses, which includes advertising, office equipment, postal fees and payroll for the town manager and clerk, increased slightly from $38,877 to $39,307.

Expenses relating to maintenance of the town office, including utilities, landscaping and janitorial expenses, increased by $3,430 from $22,030 to $25,460.

Town council expenses, which includes accountant’s fees, donations made by council and other operational expenses, increased by $3,325 from $6,080 to $9,405. Council members in White Stone continue to be unpaid, said town attorney Matson Terry.

“The code and statute allows that our town council gets paid and it’s important to note that we choose not to,” said Terry.

The budget included an extra $250 for the Triangle Trolley Program, said town manager Patrick Frere. However, White Stone has added an extra trolley stop at The Country Cottage, he said.

On the revenue side, the proposed budget includes $3,000 in dividends and interest, which is $2,000 less than the town received in 2013, said Frere. It also includes a $24,500 decrease in sales tax revenue from $52,500 to a projected $28,000.

“I’m trying to be conservative here,” said Frere. “I’m going to go low.”

Councilman David Jones asked about adding a line item to show how much the town plans to put back into its reserve fund. Council took money from its reserve fund in 2011 to pay off the loan on the town office. At the same time, it imposed a cigarette tax. Council indicated then any annual surplus should be put back into the reserve fund.

“We said we were going to pay back the reserve money and I think we need a line item for that,” said Jones.

According to Frere, he used last year’s surplus to purchase a certificate of deposit, which in essence is a reserve fund.

Jones said he still wants to “see it” in the buget.

Councilman Randy Reeves said a decision needs to be made regarding an overpayment in local sales taxes made by the county to the town.

Lancaster County Treasurer Bonnie Haynie met with council in November 2012 and explained how the overpayments to Kilmarnock, Irvington and White Stone had occurred. White Stone is responsible for paying back some $11,203.41. Reeves suggested the town “go ahead and take money from the reserve fund and pay off the county.”

Council needs to make a decision on the repayment by July 1. By consensus, council decided to take up the matter at the next meeting.

In other business, council voted unanimously, 7-0, to appoint John Taliaferro to fill the vacant seat of Zina Middleton on the planning commission. Middleton resigned as chairperson of the commission in February when she moved out of the county. Taliaferro will complete Middleton’s term, which runs through June 30, 2014. In the same motion, council reappointed Paul Elbourn to his planning commission seat. His term expires in 2018.

Council also plans to add an agenda item to each meeting for the coming year to compile a capital improvement wish list. Jones made the suggestion, mentioning several small projects which need to be done. A wish list, he said, would allow council to earmark money in next year’s budget.

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