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Dublin Holds Productive Meeting & Budget Workshop

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by Blake Proctor

Though the Covid19 pandemic threat has abated drastically over the last few months, the Town of Dublin continues to hold its meetings in the spacious Community Building on 2nd Street for purposes of social distancing.

On Thursday, June 3rd, with Commissioner Jeff Smith in attendance telephonically. Mayor Darryl Dowless called the meeting to order at 6 pm sharp, opening with the invocation. The minutes were approved unanimously, and there was no Citizen Input nor Old Business.

Ms. Jan Hester Maynor from the Lumber River Council of Governments (LRCOG) was in attendance to expand on and get consensus on the update to the Town’s Zoning Ordinance and accompanying Zoning Map.

She said that she surmised that since there were no comments or suggestions forthcoming from last month’s meeting, the Board was “okay” with the map and plans. She did say that there were a couple of changes and clarifications that she thought were necessary and asked approval for.

She advised that zoning district lines should normally follow street lines, but there were a couple of instances where that wasn’t so on the current zoning map; the Board approved making those changes.

Saying, “You don’t need an ordinance if you aren’t going to enforce it,” Ms. Maynor informed the Board that there were also some archaic and unneeded zoning uses that should be removed, and the Board approved those as well.

At her suggestion, the Commission approved publishing Notices of Public Hearings on June 16th and 23rd for a public hearing on approval of a new Zoning Ordinance at the regular meeting of July 1st. The adoption of that ordinance will occur later during that meeting.

Kenneth Hester had asked to come before the Commission to request the Town’s approval for him renting the Community Building during the week for Bingo. At his request, this item was tabled to a future meeting to be determined.

The CPA firm of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams & Company submitted a contract for the Board’s consideration to perform Dublin’s Fiscal 2020-2021 audit; the quote of $16,625 was unchanged from the 2019-2020 fee and the contract was unanimously approved.

Mayor Dowless waved around the annual nastygram from the Local Government Commission (LGC) regarding the lack of adequate revenues in the Water & Sewer Fund.

Following extensive discussions, and on a motion by Commissioner David Hursey and a second by Commissioner David Kirby, and with unanimous approval, rates for both water and sewer will increase 5% for all services, effective with the first bills of the new Fiscal Year.

The Board approved several end-of-year budget amendments, as funds needed to be transferred to and from different departments to remain within LGC guidelines and state statute, a routine activity each year for most local governments.

Town Clerk Ashley Matthews announced that the final CDBG-I Fair Housing Activities had been published; and, the CDBG-I Closeout Public Hearing was announced to be held at the regular Board meeting of July 1st.

A resolution was adopted, receiving federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act; to implement this, Ms. Matthews was granted Signatory Authority, while Mayor Dowless was appointed the Principal Administrator.

At 6:40 pm, a motion was made, seconded, and approved to enter a closed session for the purposes of personnel – specifically, salaries and benefits. The Board called the meeting back into open session at 6:50 pm.

On a motion by Commissioner Kirby, with a second by Commissioner Hursey, a 3% Cost of Living Adjustment was granted to all full-time employees; part-time employees would receive a 1.5% COLA. All full-time employees would additionally receive a $500 monthly bonus.

Town Attorney Whitley Ward opened discussion on both the utility bill payment problem and the past due tax payments at 111 Armfield Street.

Following a discussion of options, it was decided not to block the sewer at that address, but to seek foreclosure of the property. Approval was not required as it had been given months previously.

The ongoing matter of the closure of 2nd Street will require the Volunteer Fire Department to grant a legal easement to property that otherwise become landlocked; once this has been done, street closure procedures could commence.

The regular meeting adjourned at 7:08 pm, and the Mayor immediately called the budget workshop to order to discuss the proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.

The budget document presented by Ms. Matthews was clear and concise; there were, therefore, only general queries from the Board, mostly seeking clarification on various line items.

As per State law, the General Fund budget was balanced at $342,400 for both revenues and expenditures.

Ad valorem tax revenue will be increasing $800 or 1.2% to $70,000; franchise tax revenues, after plummeting 43.3% the previous year, are expected to rebound 25% to $16,000.

Revenues from the State Powell Bill will be going a third, from $30,000 to $40,000. Appropriated Fund Balance – taking from the Town’s “rainy day” savings – will be decreasing $47,000 this year to $23,000.

General Government expenditures are budgeted to decrease $16,000, from $174,800 to $158,400 a 9.2% decrease; Public Safety (the Dublin VFD) is dropping from $95,378 to $93,500.

However, the Fire Department tax rate will be increasing from 6.5¢ to 9.8¢ for the Fire District to pay for part-time firefighters to cover those weekdays when volunteers are not available.

There will be no change in the $16,500 Streets budget; the Powell Bill Department, being basically a pass-through account, is budgeted at $40,000, the same as the revenues from the State.

And, finally, the Sanitation Department, also merely a pass-through where the Town bills $34,000 for garbage collection and pays $34,000 to the collection contractor, won’t be increasing.

With the completion of the half-million-dollar CDBG Water Main Replacement Project, the 2021-2022 Water & Sewer Fund anticipates a 56.7% decrease in the FY 2021-2022 budget of $406,234,

Fund Balance appropriated for the coming year is $34,844, down $3,430 from $38,274; that Fund Balance appropriation ensures that Revenues and Expenses are balanced.

As this budget is the “raw” document, other than the previous LGC-inspired increase in water and sewer rates, there was no indication of changes in taxes or other charges and fees.

Other funding decisions will be made at the scheduled called meeting at 6:00 pm next Thursday, June 10th,

There being no further business, the budget workshop was adjourned at 7:20 pm.