Last updated: June 14. 2014 9:30PM - 283 Views
By Anthony Gonzalez agonzalez@civitasmedia.com

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An Elkin official said an impasse that led to commissioners scheduling a third budget workshop could result in a tax increase.

The Elkin Board of Commissioners scheduled a third budget workshop for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

“Yes, a tax increase is an option. Everything is on the table at the workshop. No decision has been made because nobody has met… I haven’t spoken to any commissioner since the public hearing, but a tax increase could happen,” said Mayor Lestine Hutchens. “The public asked for reconsideration of a few items. Commissioners will have to figure out how it’s going to pay for these items.”

Commissioners were jolted at a June 9 public hearing after an unexpected amount of residents pounded the podium objecting mostly to the town’s funding method for the Elkin Public Library, and to the changes proposed for its police department.

Town officials proposed dipping into the trust fund of a deceased person, James Lillard, for $30,000 to offset the special appropriation request by the library of $85,000. Library advocates asked the town to fully fund its special appropriation request without dipping into the Lillard Fund.

Town officials proposed eliminating two evening 911 dispatchers by relaying emergency calls to Surry 911 in Dobson. The cost-cutting effort would save the town about $80,000. Some town residents became outraged after learning the proposed cut would force the Elkin Police Department to lock its lobby door at 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. A sign with the name and number of a sergeant on-call would be posted on the door of the police station lobby.

Elkin proposed a $4,759, 926 budget, a six-percent increase over last year. The Water Fund is expected to generate $1,167,810, a 3.9-percent increase. Three full-time positions are set for elimination in the proposed budget, while the town would invest $117,000 of a surplus of more than $200,000 to a reserve fund for future economic development projects. Town staff would see a two-percent salary increase, plus be eligible for an additional one-percent merit payment.

“We don’t get a lot of people turning out here for our meetings, but we anticipate the public will show for this one,” said Hutchens. “I’m going to allow people to speak and weigh in if they have questions, but this workshop has to be done orderly. We’ve all learned some good things at the public hearing. The workshop is time for commissioners to decide if several items need changing.”

Hutchens added, “We’ve heard that people want to keep services at the level they’re used to, but we’re facing other realities and needs, too, such as the millions necessary for infrastructure repairs to our pipes… People miss all of these looming needs by not making meetings. To be fair to commissioners, they’re not trying to cut services. They’re trying to prepare people for the cost of what’s coming.”

Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.

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