BROADWAY: Commissioners pass budget, anticipate hardships ahead

Jun. 26, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

The property tax rate will remain the same for Broadway residents next year, and no town employees will lose their jobs, in the budget town officials approved Monday night.

The short-staffed Broadway Board of Commissioners — Thomas Beal was absent, and the board is waiting until November's election to fill the seat of the late Clemellyn Welch, who died in May — voted unanimously in favor of the budget with little discussion, having held a public hearing last month. Town Manager Bob Stevens had suggested tax hikes or personnel cuts earlier this year, after the de facto loss of about $100,000 due to changes in sales tax distribution by the Lee County Commissioners.

But ultimately, the property tax rate remained at 44 cents per $100 in value, and no positions were cut, although one town employee did go from full time to part time. Stevens and Lee County Manager John Crumpton negotiated service agreements, which netted Broadway about $60,000, and Stevens made up the rest of the difference by finding cuts in a variety of places.

Despite months of uncertainty, Stevens said this year was easy compared to what might come in the next year or two. The General Assembly is considering ending taxes on utilities, beer and liquor, and he said that could mean an additional $60,000 loss for the town, which may or may not be offset by higher sales taxes the General Assembly is also considering. The town's property tax base also decreased this year.

"We can't keep pulling rabbits out of our hats," Stevens said. "There's going to be a reckoning day, and we're coming closer and closer."

Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews said, "We could have fun next year if the General Assembly goes through with all of this."

Andrews and Stevens will likely be around to deal with such issues a year from now, but it's possible that the board composition could be different. Of the five commissioner seats, three are due for re-election, and the seat Welch occupied must be filled until that term ends in 2015.

Woody Beale announced at Monday's meeting that he wouldn't seek re-election to his seat and the four-year term that comes with it, saying he would instead campaign for Welch's seat and its shortened two-year term.

"I used to fuss about Strom Thurmond being in for so daggone long," Beale said, referencing the South Carolina politician who served in the U.S. Senate for 48 years, including after he had turned 100. But Beale, who has been on the town board for more than 30 years, said he wasn't ready to call it quits just yet — especially with difficult budget decisions possibly looming.

"It scares me enough that all this stuff is coming up," Beale said. "But I've never run away from a fight, and I'm not going to run from this one."

Andrews and Lynn Green won't face re-election until 2015, but Beale, Beal and Jim Davis have terms ending in December. Davis didn't say Monday night whether he intends to seek office or not, and neither he nor Beal could be reached for comment Tuesday. That makes Beale as the only person, either challenger or incumbent, who has publicly declared intentions to campaign for one of the four open seats. The filing period for the November elections officially starts July 5.