Town commissioners pass 2012-13 budget
by Kara Lopp
Matthews residents won’t see any tax or fee increases next year.
Town commissioners voted Monday, June 25, to pass Town Manager Hazen Blodgett’s proposed $19,291,671 budget without any changes. The budget includes raises for employees based on performance evaluations – an average increase of about 3 percent. It will be the first raise for town employees since the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Mint Hill passed its $10,929,121 budget June 14, which also includes no tax or fee increases for residents.
In crafting this year’s budget, Matthews staff had to contend with: a $70,150, or 27 percent, increase in fuel costs; a $32,720, or 7 percent, increase in utilities; a $55,000, or 60 percent, increase in radio fees during the switch from analog to digital; a $22,409 increase in workers compensation and property/liability insurance; and an about $700,000 increase in health insurance coverage costs for employees.
To combat the health insurance costs, commissioners recently approved a plan which calls for employees to purchase their own health insurance with the town reimbursing each employee on a month-to-month basis up to $10,000 per year. Matthews is likely the first municipality in North Carolina – and one of only a few nationwide – to make employees buy their own health insurance. The town could face a federal penalty in 2014 of $2,000 per employee for not providing a group health insurance program. The penalty would be assessed under President Obama’s health-care reform plan currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Among the budget highlights:
• $4,000 for board members to host an out-of-town planning conference
• $3,500 for the bi-annual citizens survey
• $17,000 for the town’s federal lobbyist (six months)
• $15,000 for human resources Service Excellence Initiative
• $12,750 for Google email fees
• $230,625 to replace seven patrol vehicles. After several years of fewer vehicles replaced due to the recession, Police Chief Rob Hunter said there are about a dozen vehicles officers use now that would have been replaced already, according to the department’s replacement policy. The department replaced eight vehicles last year.
• Not funded: $9,000 to change a records clerk position from part to full time
Fire and EMS
• $160,000 for volunteer incentives (same as last year)
• $190,000 to the Idlewild Volunteer
• $28,000 for 10 sets of firefighter turnout gear
• Not funded: $38,928 for a full-time administrative assistant
• $15,000 to cover increased Duke Energy fees for street lighting (includes the addition of streets in Greylock)
• $310,000 for road paving ($20,000 less than last year due to lower vehicle fee revenue)
• $6,900 for the promotion/reorganizing of staff
• $6,000 to replace Christmas street decorations
• Not funded: $41,000 for a maintenance position
• No money for small area plans or GIS software
• Not funded: $18,300 to increase code enforcement from a part- to full-time position.
• Funded at $50,000, which includes $7,500 for downtown facade grants
• Not funded: $75,000 in additional funding, including an employee position
Parks and Recreation
• $20,000 to replace mechanical rigging and new curtains in the Matthews Community Center theater
• $70,000 for nonprofit tourism grants (applications to be accepted this summer); $5,000 donation to Levine Senior Center
• $5,700 for painting and fire alarm system installation at the Depot
• $238,000 already approved for Matthews Heritage Museum
• $40,500 to buy chairs, desks, tables and other supplies for the under-construction McDowell Arts Center
Capital Improvement Plan
The following projects are approved for completion in 2012-13:
• $119,000 to continue payments for federally mandated police/fire radio switch from analog to digital and replacing two radio dispatch consoles
• $20,000 to create pocket parks/green areas
• $30,000 to continue payments for new fire engine for Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department
• $50,000 to build a sidewalk on Sam Newell Road
• $85,000 to buy a mini track-hoe for public works department
• $53,875 for continued payments for 35 sets of new self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters
• $30,000 of $50,000 needed to update IT equipment, including a new telephone system
• $42,000 to replace playground equipment at Sardis Park