FAIRMONT — Fairmont’s finances have improved dramatically in just a few years, according to the 2016-17 audit delivered Tuesday to the Board of Commissioners.
“This report is the best you can get in the world of accounting,” John Masters said of the 71-page report. “This is due to the sound management decisions of this board and town managers.”
Masters works for S. Preston Douglas & Associates, a tax, accounting and business consulting firm with offices in Lumberton, Whiteville, and Elizabethtown.
In three years, the fund balance, a critical benchmark of a town’s health, has increased by $500,000. Collections of personal property taxes was 93 percent in the 2016-17 fiscal year, compared with 88 percent in 2012-13.
Sales tax revenue, an indicator of economic activity, has increased to $600,000 from $450,000 five years ago. Sales at the ABC Store are up, and the liquor store is once again generating revenue for the town.
The only financial negative is the water and sewer fund balance, Masters said.
“Water and sewer fees should be increased,” Masters said. “The state gave a caution on this point.”
Commissioner Terry Evans reacted strongly to that statement.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Evans said. “I’d be a fool to raise my own water and sewer rates, and these people are tight.”
Increasing the fund balance is critical for replacing aging infrastructure, Town Manager Katrina Tatum said.
“We’ve recommended small, incremental increases,” Tatum said. “If you put it off and then raise it drastically, then you have a problem.”
Overall, the audit rated a “wow” from Commissioner Monte McCallum.
In other action, the Board of Commissioners granted a three-year tax incentive to an unnamed business that plans to employ 10 people at a rate of $12.50 an hour. The Robeson County Board of Commissioners approved four years of incentives for project “HAC.”
If the company follows through with its plan, it will invest $5 million in its operations. Fairmont would refund nearly $70,000 in property taxes, or 75 percent of its going rate, over the affected period.
Board members also heard two plans to open a youth center at 105 S. Main St. in a building that once housed the town’s post office.
Melody Wilson appeared for the Stop the Violence program, which would like to increase its work in Fairmont.
Commissioner Charles Kemp spoke of a plan for a youth center in the same building. He said there have been two youth centers that briefly operated in town in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, and Kemp volunteered with both.
Kemp told the Stop the Violence representatives that he would be their first volunteer if they are successful in their efforts. Kemp will meet with the town manager to discuss his plan.
Fairmont’s Operation Turkey will serve 250 Thanksgiving dinners on Thursday at the fire department between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Fairmont’s Christmas tree lighting is Dec. 1 at 6 p.m., with the parade starting at 6:30 p.m.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 910-644-4497.