The West Jefferson Board of Alderman unanimously approved a $3.2 million spending plan for 2014-15 at the regular meeting held Monday, June 2.
The budget does not include an increase in taxes for the upcoming year. Property taxes will remain at $.42 per $100.
While the budget passed with a 5-0 vote (Board member Calvin Green was absent), a handful of residents were present to speak out against one particular element in the budget.
Included in the budget is a provision to downgrade the town planner from a full to part-time position.
Matthew Levi, town planner for the town of West Jefferson, would become a part-time employee beginning July 1 and take a $15,000 pay cut.
Luther Pitts, general manager of Jefferson Landing, was one of several who showed up to address their concerns to the board.
Pitts said he was concerned that Levi would take a “serious financial hit so that the town can meet it’s budget.”
“Is there not any other way to do it than for one person to have to take a hit for the budget,” Pitts asked the board.
Brandon Miller, owner of Mountain Outfitters, praised Levi for being a “positive” and “constructive” town planner.
“Good town planning is the main reason West Jefferson has gotten to where it is today,” Vannoy said. “To cut this position to part time will only hurt business owners and the viability of our town to continue making improvements.”
Vannoy noted that $15,000 is the same amount of money allocated in the budget for next year’s centennial celebration.
“Please consider other means of cost-cutting,” Vannoy said.
Travis Perkins, owner of Padco Excavating, told the board that people he knows who travel to West Jefferson always say good things about the improvements that have been made to the town over the past 10 years.
While members of the board listened intently to the speakers from the floor, they voted to pass the budget as presented.
“I think we have a good budget,” board member Tom Hartman said. “Those were good comments and I understand them, but with all the work we’ve done on this budget, we probably need to go ahead and approve it as is. We can take these comments into account, or make adjustments at a later time if we feel the need.”
Mayor Dale Baldwin agreed with Hartman and noted that amendments could always be made to budgets.
In other board related business:
• Police Chief Jeff Rose told the board that for the month of May, 242 calls were made to the communications center. The WJPD investigated 19 automobile collisions, made 10 arrests for DWI, larceny, assault and drug-related crimes, and caught the students responsible for vandalizing Ashe County High School.
• The board approved the schedule of fees for the town of West Jefferson for 2014-15. The fees will remain unchanged from the previous year.
• The board approved a resolution to continue participation in the N.C. Small Town Main Street Program. The program is overseen by the Department of Commerce and provides technical assistance to selected small towns in the revitalization of downtowns through a uniform standard of organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring.
• The board approved a request from Jane Lonon, executive director of the Ashe Arts Council, to hang banners throughout downtown promoting this year’s On the Same Page Literary Festival. The five day event will take place Sept. 16-20 and is co-sponsored by the arts council and the Ashe County Public Library. The banners will hang from mid-August through the end of September.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.