Town Manager Matt Zapp presented a revision of the numbers, addressing several priorities including economic development, code enforcement and analysis of the water, sewer and electric systems. Benson’s proposed budget for 2015-2016 is approximately $10.8 million, reflecting a decrease over last year’s approved budget of just over $12 million.
The property valuation for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is approximately $264 million. The town’s tax rate remains at 53 cents per $100 valuation, the same as last year’s rate. Some major capital items found within the numbers include $50,000 for code enforcement, $52,000 for two police cruisers and $35,000 for the replacement of the auditorium roof at town tall, among other purchases.
The budget also includes an increase in the garbage and recycling collection rate to counteract a 3 percent Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment from Waste Industries. Earlier this year, the town entered into a new garbage collection contract with Waste Industries. The new deal included three 95-gallon cans for recycling, trash and yard debris at each household as well as stick collection and bulk item pickup — something the town had previously been responsible for.
The Waste Industries contract brought the town garbage and recycling rate to $22 per month — the 2015-16 budget seeks to increase that to $22.66 to account for the CPI, however, the higher rate would not be implemented until January 2016.
Water and sewer rates will remain stagnate for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The Water-Sewer Fund revenue is based on approximately 635,000 gallons per day (gpd) consumption of water and approximately 600,000 gpd consumption of sewer — the same as last year’s approved budget.
Likewise, water rates are proposed to remain the same — a $10.00 base charge and $4.29 per 1000 gallons for customers inside Benson town limits and a $12 base charge and $6.93 per 1000 gallons for those outside town limits. Benson’s base sewer rates are currently $10 for those inside town limits and $12 for residents outside town limits. The per gallon sewer rate is $5.29 per 1,000 gallons inside town limits and $8.96 per 1,000 gallons outside.
The Electric Fund budget is $4,610,032 — a decrease of $778,703 over fiscal year 2015. The reduction is a result of the ongoing Duke Energy and NCEMPA asset merger, which is anticipated to close in late July.
Benson commissioners made the motion to officially support the merger in late May — the last step in a lengthy approvals checklist that has included state and federal agencies. Benson officials have kept a watchful eye on talks between Duke and NCEMPA since June of last year — holding regular closed session meetings to discuss the acquisition and adjust the town’s future plans.
The current debt owed by NCEMPA members is approximately $1.9 billion. After the sale — for $1.2 billion and liquidating certain bond reserve funds — Power Agency communities will share responsibility for a dramatically reduced debt of approximately $480 million.
Using new software and brand new meter technology, Benson will be able to more accurately control its grid and offer an overall better experience to its businesses and residents in addition to reduced rates, explained Mr. Zapp. The new meters are currently being installed throughout town. Full deployment of the town’s new $970,000 meter grid is expected in August.
Benson’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year doesn’t include any new positions, but it does account for two recent hires — filling the vacant Finance Director position and fully funding the creation of the Permit Technician position. Additionally, a merit-based adjustment in salary was also included for town employees for 0-3 percent with a performance evaluation. The new budget also includes a town co-funded health plan for employees. Courtesy The Daily Record