By Sarah Vogelsong
Town Manager Stephen Manster presented a proposed budget of $1.72 million for fiscal year 2015 for the Town of Bowling Green at Town Council’s May 1 meeting.
“The revenue picture and expenditure picture for the town in some areas is in a state of flux and in other areas is relatively stable,” said Manster.
Summarizing the revenue projections for FY15, Manster noted that the town’s greatest source of revenue, the meals tax, is expected to decline as a result of the area’s changing economic climate and the closure this spring of Jack’s Café on Main Street.
Personal property tax revenue is also expected to decrease, said Manster. Because the Commissioner of Revenue recently changed the method used to assess personal property, property values have dropped by almost a quarter, which substantially decreases the amount of revenue the town can collect through the personal property tax.
Consequently, Manster recommended increasing the personal property tax rate from $0.60 per $100 of assessed value to $0.77.
“So there’s no increase to our citizens, because they’re having a lower value put on their personal property?” Mayor David Storke asked. Manster confirmed that this was correct.
Real estate tax revenue is expected to hold steady, as is revenue drawn from trash fees. No other tax or rate increases were recommended by the town manager for FY15.
Looking at projected expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year, some of the largest increases fall in the areas of the police department and capital projects. Manster also noted that more funds must be allocated to account for the increase in the amount the town is required to pay into the Virginia Retirement System for each of its qualifying employees. This percentage is set by the VRS. Previously, the town had to pay 13.5 percent of each employee’s salary into the system. That requirement has now risen to 21.7 percent of salary.
The town manager recommended increasing the police department’s budget by approximately 20 percent. This would allow the department to hire an additional part-time officer as well as add four new six-hour shifts during which police officers would be on duty.
Increases in the capital projects budget would cover the construction of a pavilion at Mark Haygood Park, the replacement of sewer lines, and the replacement of flooring at Town Hall.
Manster’s proposed budget also includes $2,000 allocated for erecting signage that would direct drivers downtown and to parking areas. “I think (it) will help our business climate here in town,” he said, by encouraging visitors to stop and patronize the local businesses.
An extended discussion broke out among the council during Manster’s presentation of the streets and sidewalks budget over the issue of street sweeping, with Councilman Daniel Webb expressing his disappointment at the sand and debris along Main Street and the surrounding streets.
The town currently owns two street sweepers, but only one is operational. No regular sweeping schedule was previously followed, with streets swept only as considered necessary. Because of the need for repairs on the one operating sweeper, the streets were not swept this past winter.
Council discussed options for equipment, with Councilman Jason Satterwhite raising the possibility of contracting sweeping out to a company or budgeting in the future for a new machine.
Vice Mayor Glenn McDearmon suggested that the town also look into the costs of renting a sweeper as needed. “Does it make sense to rent it three or four times a year, or just for an event, those kinds of things, as opposed to how much money we’re spending maintaining it to keep up not only the parts, but the labor it costs us internally?” he asked.
Webb expressed the belief that sweeping ought to be done more frequently.
“I just think it’s more important for us to do it more than four times a year. I think we ought to do it every two weeks,” he said. “That’s one thing that we can control, that we can take care of ourselves and not have it look trashy.”
When reached by phone this week, Manster stated that the repairs on the town’s operational sweeper are almost complete, and the machine should begin sweeping later this week. As a result of Council’s discussion, the streets will be swept every other week going forward.
On the issue of trash collection, Manster at the May 1 meeting suggested that the town restore one of the recycling containers on Chase Street that was previously removed in an effort to cut costs. Residents have complained that when they go to deposit their recycling, the bins are full, he said. This change will make two containers available to residents.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at the June 5 Town Council meeting.
The Town of Bowling Green’s current-year budget is $1.67 million.