Following a 45 minute meeting Monday night, the Smithfield Town Council unanimously approved the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
While some fees will be increasing, the 57 cents property tax rate will remain unchanged in the $13,680,098 spending plan. The budget adopted is about $182,000 less than what was proposed by Town Manager Paul Sabiston. It remains well above the $11.1 million budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30th.
Among some of the changes made include cell phone allotments being reduced to a maximum of $50 per month, except for the town manager and police chief who have higher allotments.
Employee merit pay increases were reduced from 2.5 to 2.0 percent. Base water fees were increased from $5.47 to $6.02 for in-town customers and from $9 to $12 for out of town customers. Base sewer rates were increased from $6.98 to $7.98 for in-town customers and from $10 to $15 for out of town users.
Officials reduced electric rates by five percent for both residential and commercial customers in anticipation of a wholesale price decrease from ElectriCities following the sale of power generating assets to Duke Energy.
Some departments will see higher budgets, others will not. The Finance Department will see funding cut by 22 percent and the Planning Department will see an 8% cut. The Police Department will see a 6 percent increase in funding including a 400% increase in the department’s dry cleaning.
The Fire Department’s budget is up 34 percent but that is due to the planned purchase of a new fire engine at a projected cost of $530,000.
The town council also unanimously approved a new fee schedule starting July 1st. Fees for many parks and recreation services will rise, including rental costs at the Smithfield Community Park. Costs for non-resident youth team sports including baseball for ages 9-18 will increase from $70 to $77. Athletic field rentals will increase by about 10 percent as will the rent of picnic shelters.
Membership rates at the Recreation & Aquatics Center will increase for non-residents from $52.00 per month per individual to $57.20.