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Maggie Valley’s financial position strong

Municipal budget season is well underway, and in at least one Haywood County town, the discussion isn’t about rising costs or decreasing revenue — it’s about what to do with a burgeoning balance sheet.

We don’t know what we’re going to do with that yet,” said Maggie Valley Alderman Mike Eveland. “We’ve got a month and a half, and we need to know the exact numbers.”

He’s talking about fund balance — a state mandated savings account of sorts for municipal governments. Maggie Valley’s fund balance is roughly $2.7 million dollars right now, versus a yearly budget of roughly $2.4 million. 

Small towns, like Maggie Valley, often maintain a fund balance approaching 100 percent of their budgets, in case of a disaster or emergency. Maggie Valley has exceeded that goal by more than 10 percent, or $236,532 according to a presentation by Town Manager Nathan Clark last week. 

“For a town like ours, it’s super healthy,” said Dr. Janet Banks, who like Eveland is a Maggie Valley alderman. “We’re to be commended for keeping our fiscal nose to the grindstone and it allows us to do things that we would not ordinarily be able to do.”

That presents the town with three more or less overlapping courses of action — continue to collect fund balance at the current rate, cut taxes to decrease the stockpile slowly over time, or spend some of it. 

“I don’t think we’re ready to do a tax cut,” Eveland said. “That would not be in our best interest at this time, but maybe if that trend continues … “

Banks agreed with Eveland on the tax cut; the recent countywide property revaluation took many municipalities by surprise with lower assessed taxable values, and another revaluation is already on the horizon. In the event it comes in lower, again, towns would need to cut expenses or raise revenues to maintain revenue-neutral budgets. 

Eveland said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk” a tax cut based on favorable numbers, and then have to raise taxes again down the road. 

Additionally, commercial development in Maggie Valley has been nearly nonexistent — only six new commercial buildings have come to the Valley since 2005, and empty storefronts still line Soco Road, along with abandoned hotels. 

But another attractive option for addressing the excess might be to close out the town’s revolving debt. 

Since fiscal year 2014, Maggie Valley has shed almost 90 percent of its debt, going from owing more than $775,000 to less than $95,000. 

“That might be a consideration,” Eveland said. Alternately, he thought the town could purchase some new vehicles with the money to avoid having to finance them — and thus accrue more debt — in the future.

“I would be happy to do that,” said Banks, who noted other upcoming concerns, like a new server for the town’s website and a long-desired veterans memorial. 

This year’s budget process could end up having consequences at the polls — Maggie Valley’s Mayor, Saralyn Price, told The Smoky Mountain News this past January that she wouldn’t seek another term in this year’s upcoming election, and Eveland said he wasn’t sure if he’d run for mayor, but has been mentioned as a possible candidate. 

Banks said she’d run unless she’s selected for a position with the N.C. League of Municipalities in May. 

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