WEST JEFFERSON-The two big ideas that came out of West Jefferson’s preliminary 2016-2017 budget discussion on May 11? That the town’s tax rate should stay the same and that town police officers might need a bump in pay.
Town Manager Brantley Price began reviewing the budget with town aldermen Wednesday evening at the West Jefferson Town Hall, and the proposed budget lists the tax rate at $.42 which represents no increase over the current year’s rate.
In terms of revenue, Price said the town is only budgeting a fund balance of $5,000 due to the various construction projects and the centennial celebration the town has begun.
In the past year alone, the town has wrapped up its ongoing streetscape project, broke ground on a set of new public restrooms and paved the way for a new public parking lot near Badger Family Funeral Home.
The preliminary budget also includes a 3 percent across the board increase for town employees.
“The town is privileged to have a great group of employees and I feel a COLA is needed,” Price wrote in the budget highlights package he presented to the board. “I feel our employees all work together to make and keep West Jefferson looking and running like a small town should.”
The proposed increase would be the largest for town employees since FY 2012-13. Town employees did not receive a COLA increase in FY 2014-15. They received an increase of 3.5 percent each year from 2006-08.
The N.C. League of Municipalities is also projecting a 3.5 increase over FY 2015-16. Changes in sales tax regulations has increased the sales tax distribution.
West Jefferson Police Chief Jeff Rose was also in attendance to learn how much the town might allocate his department for operating costs. As the budget reads now, the police department could receive $15,800 for department supplies alone. This would include three alcohol sensors, two tasers and two bullet proof vests.
The budget also includes $95,000 for two new, fully equipped police cars. Equipment needs were not, however, at the top of the department’s list.
Rose said that for the first time in years, his department is enjoying a very low turnover rate.
“No one is looking to go anywhere and everyone is in tune with what they are suppose to do,” Rose said of his officers. “They are working hard. We’ve had very little issues with the police department. The complaints we receive have really cut down. We use to get them all the time.”
Rose said the departments smooth operations speaks volumes of the officers themselves. He said that several of his officers have four-year degrees and could find more lucrative employment opportunities.
Price said he’s considered giving the police department an even higher COLA because they are “in a different area of occupation.”
The board noted the department has lost officers in previous years to the sheriff’s office.
The town went into closed session to discuss personnel issues during the conversation that surrounded an increase to police salaries.
Results of that discussion and other conversations by the board concerning the budget were not immediately available.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.