BROADWAY: New budget plan retains all employees, present tax rate

May. 21, 2013 @ 06:18 PM

Thanks to two last-minute agreements with the county, Broadway won’t have to raise taxes or lay off any employees to make budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, officials said at a meeting this week.

The town had been facing the prospect of having about $110,000 less for the 2013-14 fiscal year than it was working with this year — a de facto cut of about 15 percent — due to a redistribution of sales tax revenue by the Lee County Board of Commissioners that gave that board enough money to lower the county property tax from 75 to 72 cents per $100 valuation. However, it caused budget upheavals for both the town of Broadway and city of Sanford.

Broadway would have had to raise its property tax from 44 to 56 cents per $100 to cope with the redistribution, a strategy that town officials shot down as soon as it was suggested earlier this year.  The budget Town Manager Bob Stevens presented to the board Monday night maintained the town’s property tax rate at 44 cents per $100. To keep that rate, town officials had been planning to cut staff by one police officer and one maintenance worker.

But the town’s new budget plan lays off no one, although it did make one full-time maintenance worker a part-time employee. A yearly payment of $75,000 to Broadway for various services, which that the county approved just hours before Broadway officials met, was largely responsible for the change.

Lee County will pay Broadway $60,000 for town officers to respond to Lee County Sheriff’s Office calls outside of town limits — something they already do — as well as $15,000 to help with animal control. To compensate for the remaining cuts, the town also changed health insurance providers, changed its solid waste contractor, cut the budget for fuel and requested that there not be any early voting sites in Broadway during the November election, among other actions.

Stevens said this was the toughest budget challenge Broadway has faced in more than a decade, but he’s glad it could be handled without any tax hikes or too many personnel changes.

“There seems to be more questions than answers,” he said, citing both local changes and uncertainty at the state level. “... Because of these issues, we will continue to hold a very conservative line.”

Mayor Donald Andrews said that while Broadway residents will notice the local cuts, some will also reap the benefits of a lower property tax rate. He also praised Stevens and Lee County Manager John Crumpton for working together to make sure the town wasn’t too badly harmed by the county’s changes, and he thanked county commissioners for at least listening to the concerns of Broadway’s citizens and leaders in recent months. The town’s budget is expected to be finalized in June.

After budget discussions ended, the town commissioners moved on to an even more emotional subject — how to fill the now-vacant seat of former Commissioner Clemellyn “Clem” Welch, who died earlier this month at age 68. The board voted unanimously not to appoint anyone and instead to put the seat up for election in November, when three other seats on the board will go up for election as well.

“If we leave it to the election process, then those who would run, we know, are really interested in the office,” Commissioner Lynn Green said. “I would really want to see someone come on the board in Commissioner Welch’s absence with as much passion for the business of the town as she had.”

Whoever wins that seat will be in office until at least 2015, when Welch’s term would’ve been up. The other three races are for four-year terms ending in 2017.

The board also:

* Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Lee County Economic Development Corporation, with EDC Chairman Donnie Oldham on hand to answer any questions.

* Held a public hearing on its budget, although no members of the public spoke.

* Announced that they had no fraud or other ethical problems to report to an auditing group.