RONDA — The town of Ronda held a budget workshop recently in preparation for the public hearing tomorrow evening.
The Board of Commissioners got together for about an hour to discuss registration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and concerns on the fire tax while preparing any last-minute changes to the budget plan before the hearing.
The first order of business was a quick discussion of FEMA. The board decided that it would be important to join the agency as it would benefit the town in the case of a natural disaster.
“I think we’re all on the same page that this is something good for the town and we need to do it,” said Mayor Victor Varela. “The town could be held liable if it was ever to have a natural disaster and we were not covered.”
A public hearing will be held for the ordinance before voting on the measure.
One discussion that has caused a firestorm in the community is the board’s proclamation to enroll in the county’s fire district and cancel the fire tax.
“It’s real simple. What we want to do is be rolled into the fire district,” said Varela. “We want to keep our support to the volunteer fire department. We don’t want to take anything away from them. I think that this is something the county should go ahead and do for us.”
According to the Council, the decision is purely administrative, and the council has looked for a revenue-neutral solution to keep the volunteer fire department in business as they make the transition.
The commissioners have decided to leave the tax rate the way it is for the coming year but will go ahead and give 180 days’ notice to terminate their current contract. While the town will pay the department for those 180 days, the town has also decided that it will also pay the department for the other half of the year after the contract has expired.
“That gives everybody enough time to sort it out and figure out what they’re going to do,” said Varela. “We are not saying we’re going to cut them off but it needs to stop being a line item in our budget. We don’t have any oversight of the fire department. We don’t run it. We should just be part of the fire district. It’s what Pilot Mountain did. A few years ago they got rolled into their fire district by the Surry County Board of Commissioners.”
The resolution will be discussed further during Tuesday’s meeting and has been listed as below:
“Whereas the town of Ronda supports the Ronda Volunteer Fire Department, and whereas the town wishes that the fire department has secure annual funding for operations, and whereas there is a tax district enacted by Wilkes County to support this vital operation, and whereas the corporate limits are not in this tax district, and whereas appropriations by the town of Ronda will vary based on Wilkes County collections, now thereby immediately resolve that the town of Ronda wishes the corporate limits included in the existing tax district and will be further resolved as of June 30th, 2017, the town of Ronda will no longer collect the fire tax on behalf of the county and fire department.”
“I think what that does is it gives everybody a chance to get this in order and make sure the fire department is looked at,” said advisor Ron Niland. “It also gives the rest of the county enough time to do their stuff with their budgets so everybody knows what’s going on. This way there’s no pressure to do anything right now.”
“Everybody’s working on their budgets right now, and we don’t want to throw a wrench into the works,” said Varela.
The commissioners decided that they do not want to take money away from the fire department because it would be lacking this money. According to Varela, they depend on their annual appropriations for their operations.
“If there is an agreement by the board, then by Tuesday on the agenda, there would be something to give the 180-day notice on the contract but what we would say with that notice was we are budgeting the whole year for it,” said Varela. “Then next year, the board can decide how much they would want to raise or lower their tax rate based on not having to pay the department in their budget. In the end it would be better for them, better for us, better for everybody.”
In other news, a few inactive water balances were discussed during the meeting. Some past accounts no longer active in the town’s system due to people not paying their bills after moving out will be written off for the books.
The park shelter at the Ronda Memorial Park was also brought up for the possibility of repainting the roof. According to the board, the structure is still sound. The rust on the roof will need to be removed and the roof repainted.
The town levied a tax at the rate of 45.5 cents per $100 valuation of property listed for taxes as of Jan. 1, 2016, for the purpose of raising the revenue listed Ad Valorem Taxes.
In the budget ordinance, the town of Ronda approved and authorized general fund revenues totalling $237,720 with the largest amounts going towards Ad Valorem Taxes at $61,500 and Local Option Sales Tax at $95,910.
General fund expenditures will include $46,710 in governing body, $73,980.00 in administration, $37,480 in sanitation, $35,740 in streets, and $43,810 in the Powell Bill.
Water rates shall remain the same as last year. Enterprise fund revenues include $146,330 in water costs. The enterprise fund expenditures for water operations have been set at $146,330.
A public hearing will be scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the town hall. The board can still make changes after the hearing.
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.