Town Manager Michael Scott has released his recommended 2017-18 fiscal year budget to the Smithfield Town Council.
The $36.5 million spending plan is down about $1.2 million from the current fiscal year. It keeps the 57 cents property tax rate unchanged.
The proposal keeps water, sewer and electric rates unchanged, but does include minor fee decreases in out of town charges for the Parks & Recreation Department. Businesses, like restaurants, that have grease traps would pay higher fines if oils and greases make their way into the sewer system in the new fiscal year.
Scott’s proposal includes 5 new police cars, a new animal control officers truck, computer upgrades at the police department, funding a West Smithfield fire station, payment of a new fire truck to be delivered in July, and money for new design work at the Water Plant. The Town is expected to begin selling more water to Johnston County and will need to design an upgrade to produce and then distribute more water to the County.
$210,000 is included for the purchase of more Smart Meters for the Water and Sewer Department and $500,000 for Smart Meters for the Electric Department.
Funds are included to update the concession stands and add a dog park at Civitan Field. $51,500 is earmarked for renovations of the Kiddie Park on South Second Street and $25,000 to resurface the tennis courts in the Community Park.
The Town currently has 145 full time employees. Only one new position is included in the budget this year, a maintenance worker for the Parks & Recreation Department.
Scott said the Town is faced with an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs for employees. The Town will also be changing health insurance providers this year.
The town manager said the biggest issue going into the new fiscal year is limited employee turnover. A Benefits Committee has been created to maintain quality employees while also staying within budget. To do so, Scott has proposed a salary adjustment rather than an across the board salary increase on July 1st.
“We propose giving lower paid employees a higher raise, and higher paid employees less of a raise,” Scott told WTSB News. He said it would average a 2 percent cost of living increase but with lower paid employees receiving on average more of an increase.
There are no capital improvements for the Smithfield Recreation & Aquatics Center (SRAC). Revenue produced by the SRAC does not cover its debt obligations and operating expenses and operates at a loss of about $700,000 each year.
The Smithfield Town Council will hold a series of budget workshops in June before adopting the final spending plan.