Franklin manager delivers last budget proposal
Longtime Franklin Manager Summer Woodard will be leaving for a new job in June, but before she goes, she presented her final budget proposal to the town council.
In her 2021-22 budget message, Woodard touts the town’s strong financial position despite all the economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Her proposed budget of $10,522,662 focuses on addressing some long-term infrastructure needs while maintaining a healthy fund balance for the future.
While many local governments passed extremely conservative budgets last year at the height of the pandemic, most Western North Carolina municipalities have been pleasantly surprised by the increase to several revenue streams. Sales tax revenue is projected to increase by $100,000 in Franklin, but Woodard still cautioned the board to remain diligent.
“The Town of Franklin should continue to monitor investment earnings in General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund,” she said. “Investment earnings in both General and Water/Sewer have been decreased to give a representation of what is expected to be collected. The town should also continue to plan for unexpected revenue loss at the state and federal level.”
Her budget proposal allots $20,000 in the contingency fund in anticipation of unexpected revenue loss or unexpected expenditures.
The town currently has a very healthy fund balance that represents 82 percent of the town’s annual budget. The fund balance has increased 4 percent since the 2018-19 budget year. Woodard’s proposed 2021-22 budget includes using a one-time allocation from the fund balance in the amount of $418,736 into the general fund.
Overall, she said general government revenues are expected to remain the same in the coming year, which will allow the town to maintain a balanced budget with the current property tax rate of 0.32 percent — or 32 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Looking at personnel costs, Woodard said the budget includes funding for a performance-based payment for most full-time positions, but part-time and probationary employees won’t be eligible. The budget also includes a one-time cost-of-living adjustment for all employees. While the town’s dental and life insurance plans will remain the same, Woodard said the town’s health insurance premiums would be increasing by 10 percent and property/workers compensation premiums were expected to increase 5 percent.
The proposed budget includes one new full-time position for a code enforcement officer because of the increasing number of dilapidated buildings and homes in the town. The position will be budgeted at the same rate as a sworn police officer with all the same benefits.
The town will once again split the cost of a peer support specialist position with Macon County and has budgeted 20,000 for that position. This person assists people with behavioral health issues at nonprofit No Wrong Door.
The town will be working to secure funding for phase two of the water treatment plant upgrade and expansion project and addresses several high-priced improvements to the system, including $515,000 to replace the sewer line on Crane Circle/Lakeside Drive; $552,000 to replace water line on Clyde Street and $159,000 to improve the East Franklin pump station. Woodard recommended the town finance the two larger water line projects. She added that Franklin could also consider using some funds from the American Rescue Plan to pay for part of those improvements.
The budget proposes to spend $23,000 so the IT department can upgrade the town’s key scan system.
Woodard said over $200,000 was included in the budget from the state Powell Bill fund for streets and the town also has a list of sidewalk improvements to make — including 630 feet on Harrison Avenue to Courtney Lane, 1,100 feet on Maple Street and ADA compliant curb ramps at East Dogwood and the crosswalk at Dan Street.
The police department will be replacing two vehicles for a total cost of $62,000 and public works department will be replacing a vehicle for $35,000.
The town of Franklin has several loans it continues to pay off each year. The current loan amount for its water and sewer projects is about $1.47 million, scheduled to be paid off my 2024. The town also has two state revolving loans for its wastewater treatment plant projects — $3.37 million to be paid off by 2033 and $2.76 million to be paid off by 2038.
Water & sewer rates
The proposed budget does include a 3 percent rate increase for water and sewer customers and would only affect base and volume charges — not taps or connection fees. Woodard said the increase is needed based on a detailed water and sewer rate analysis that was done in April 2020 by Withers-Ravenel.
The entire proposed budget can be found at www.franklinnc.com/town-manager-summer-woodard.