Fairmont settles on pay increase

By: By Bob Shiles - [email protected]

FAIRMONT — Property tax rates and water, sewer and garbage collection fees stay the same, and employees get a pay raise in the fiscal year 2017-18 budget town leaders are prepared to present to residents.

The Fairmont Board of Commissioners, during its final budget workshop on Tuesday, looked over the $1.9 million plan, up $55,970 from the current year, that will go before the public on June 20.

The increase reflects the addition of an election expense, a cost-of-living adjustment, and increases in code enforcement and recreation expenses, Town Manager Katrina Tatum said. The budget also reflects a higher cost for the town’s health care plan, and a 25 percent increase in workers compensation insurance.

Tatum told the commissioners employees can be granted a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase, plus a one-time bonus of $350 for each full-time employee and $175 bonus for each part-time employee, without jeopardizing the town’s ability to make future payrolls.

At a work session earlier this month, the commissioners had suggested an across-the-board cost of living increase ranging from 1.5 percent to 6 percent. Tatum said she ran figures again Friday and determined 2.5 percent was the highest pay increase the town could afford.

Commissioner Charles Kemp argued unsuccessfully for a higher pay increase.

“I’m really disappointed we could not give at least a 3 percent cost of living increase to our employees,” he said.

Tatum gave town commissioners a bit of advice Tuesday.

“You don’t need to spend every dollar you got,” Tatum said. “It’s better to have some money saved because you never know when there will be unexpected expenses or unfunded mandates to meet.”

The board agreed with Tatum’s recommendation that the local property tax be held at the current rate of 73 cents per $100 of property value. She said that there will be changes in property values when Robeson County finishes its county-wide property revaluation in 2018.

“It’s always good to maintain your tax rate until after a property revaluation before you decide if you want to go up on the tax rate or down,” Tatum said.

There will be no increase in water, sewer or garbage collection fees, she said. Also, the budget allows for the Public Works and Police departments to each fund an existing, vacant part-time position.

Commissioner Monte McCallum praised Tatum and town administrators for developing a sound budget that meets the town’s needs and does not put an additional financial burden on taxpayers.

“She has done an awesome job,” he said. “I’m satisfied with the budget. It keeps the town financially stable without putting more on the townspeople who are burdened enough.”

The budget will be available for public review in the clerk’s office and Water Department at Town Hall at 421 S. Main St., beginning Thursday, Tatum said. The budget will not be considered for final approval until after the June 20 public hearing. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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By Bob Shiles

[email protected]

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.