WENDELL — Commissioners favor cutting town services and staff over increasing taxes to bridge a $423,000 shortfall projected for next year’s budget.
Town staff projects $5.7 million expenditures for the next fiscal year, but about $5.3 million in revenues. For the last three years, commissioners bridged budget shortfalls with money from the town’s general fund – a maneuver board members are determined to halt this year.
At a special board meeting on April 29, Wendell commissioners said raising taxes to boost revenues was out of the question.
“We can’t tax our way out of it,” Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant said. “We’re going to have to come up with some creative ways to reduce our staff.”
Hinnant suggested offering resignation incentives to Wendell employees eligible for retirement. If the incentives were accepted, Wendell would save money by hiring replacements at a reduced rate or by hiring temporary workers for the fiscal year.
In other revenue-boosting efforts, Wendell commissioners will raise vehicle registration fees to $10 from $5, and may raise the solid waste fee by $1.50 a month.
Teresa Piner, Wendell town manager, said doubling vehicle registration fees will generate about $18,000 each year – roughly the amount Wendell expects to lose in privilege license fees next year. Privilege license fees are annual dues Wendell collects from businesses for operating in town. Several bills proposed in the General Assembly revoke the ability of local governments to impose privilege license fees.
Raising the solid waste fee by $1.50 would bring in another $27,000 in revenue for Wendell. However, commissioners such as Christie Adams are hesitant to approve raising the solid waste fee because rates are already scheduled to increase 8.5 percent next year as part of a plan to repay Raleigh for water capacity.
Wendell may also postpone purchasing new police vehicles with next year’s budget. Typically, Wendell replaces three or four police cars each year. However, Wendell would need to take out a $135,000 loan to buy new patrol cars next year – a move commissioners are unwilling to make.
“It’s not fiscally responsible to have more loans,” Hinnant said.
Hinnant suggested Wendell reduce recycling pickup to once every two weeks, instead of once a week.
“If you’re gonna tell folks you’re only gonna pick up their (recycling) once a week, you’d better get your bullet proof vest,” Commissioner Ira Fuller joked.
To which Hinnant responded: “I’d rather do that than raise taxes.”
Wendell town staff is expected to present a balanced budget proposal at the May 13 Board of Commissioners meeting.