Council Crunches Final Numbers

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council put the finishing touches on its proposed $1,241,000 budget for fiscal year 2014-15, at a three-hour work session on Tuesday. Councilman Bob Massa, a CPA who works closely with the Town’s financial consultant, Kem Smith, reviewed the budget highlights for Council, explaining that the Town’s estimated revenue is expected to increase $30,000 from the FY2014 budget and expenditures are expected to decrease by $181,261 from last year’s budget.

“Most of this decrease,” Massa said, “is a result of deferring two previous capital fund projects – the McNulty Road right-of-way purchase and the Town Center complete streets projects, for a total of $100,000 – to FY2017 and beyond.”

Massa pointed out that while the renovation of Bojangles caused a decrease in the Town’s Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) toward the end of FY2014, the restaurant is now reopened and should bring the LOST revenue back up to last year’s level. He also explained that the Town’s business license revenue was lower by $15,000 due to decreased actual collections in FY2014. A $5,000 increase in budgeted miscellaneous revenue is also due to actual FY2014 collections.

The Manor will have an increased revenue budget resulting from increased rental rates that began in Jan. 1, as well as a reduction in the amount of free use, Massa said. Last year much of the Manor’s expenses were paid out of the general fund. He said that is no longer the situation; therefore, budgeted expenses for the Manor will increase.

Massa said the estimate to pave the roads in the park is $182,000. He made a note on the budget that, per Smith, “we will have approximately $177,000 left in the bank and should pave the park area in FY2015.”

The general fund will reflect a small surplus in the FY2015 budget, but Massa explained that’s because bond payments were, in the past, paid but not budgeted. He said those payments will now be properly reflected in the budgets and the payments will be in and outs through the general fund.

Massa forecast approximately $14,000 in encumbrances in the budget that will roll forward to FY2016.

Code Enforcement

There was considerable discussion about the need for better code enforcement in the town citing unpermitted construction in neighborhoods, signs and peddlers that show up on weekends in the town.

“While I think code enforcement is an issue,” Mayor J. Michael Ross said, “I don’t want to create a full time position. When someone sees something (code violation) they should call Town Hall. That’s how you find things.”

“We’re missing out on a lot of revenue with poor code enforcement,” Massa pointed out. “We’re losing permitting fees, business license fees, etc. when people don’t license their home businesses with Town Hall.”

After much discussion, Council came to no specific conclusion about hiring code enforcement.

Tree Preservation Ordinance.

Council has been considering a new, stringent tree preservation ordinance for a year or so, and last month asked the Town’s Planner, Michael Chris, to review some examples of ways homeowners and commercial property owners would need to comply with the new ordinance. The current tree ordinance is applicable to new construction. The proposed ordinance, if passed, will apply to all commercial property owners (old and new) after a five-year period. Chris explained a proposed point system in which homeowners and commercial property owners will have to either plant trees or donate financially to a town tree fund if they do not have the required number of trees (points) on their property. First reading has been passed by Council and could come up for vote at the June 30 meeting.

Council will vote on the proposed FY2015 budget at the June 30 meeting to be held at 7 p.m. at The Manor. No Council workshops will be held during July and August.