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Fremont approves new budget

STEP Chairman Keith Spivey and Fremont Interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock want all residents to fill out a survey form about where they shop locally. Forms can be obtained at town hall or filled out online. (NL photo by Michael Jaenicke)
By Michael Jaenicke
Staff Writer
The Fremont Board of Aldermen approved the town’s $3.44 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which included no increases in water, sewer, electric and property tax rates.
The new budget, which was prepared by interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock, has a 1.96 percent decrease in expenditures from the previous fiscal year. The tax rate remains 65 cents per $100 of property valuation.
Aycock called it a conservative budget which has limited spending, while at the same time planning for infrastructure and vital capital projects and equipment purchases.
“I tried to plan for most expenses, but sometimes unexpected expenses will cause changes to the budget and impact the town’s finances,” Aycock said. “The budget also continues a trend of a conservative budgets.
“I’ve been happy with how the staff has managed to help by limiting expenditures, requesting only things they really needed. It’s hard to predict the amount of sewage we will send to Goldsboro, because so many variables come into play, such as rain.”
Aycock said health insurance for town employees rose 18 percent during the fiscal year and that workman’s compensation increased by $10,000.
“These are the kind of expenses that can change a town’s budget very quickly, but are unavoidable to operate efficiently,” she said.
The lone fee increase is in garbage pickup. In-town residents will go from $14 a month to $15, while out-of-town residents will jump from $18 to $19. Aycock said the increase is necessary because the town needs to purchase a new garbage truck. The town spent $83,000 on repairs to a used truck it bought in 2008. The truck currently has transmission problems, according to Public Works Supervisor Tim Howell. A new truck costs about $180,000. Fremont is borrowing a truck from Goldsboro for its garbage pickup.
“There’s a possibility we can get a loan for $130,000 and a grant for $50,000 to help buy a new truck,” Aycock said. “Raising the garbage fees will bring in $7,392 annually to help in making our loan payment.”
Aycock said a 15.22 decrease in the general fund came in large part because she moved $115,000 of STEP money to a newly created capital improvement fund. The general fund went from $899,826 to $762,900.
Via a new state law, Fremont is also putting one percent of the town’s salaries each quarter into an unemployment insurance fund. Before 2014, municipalities only made contributions when a former employee filed a claim.
Fremont’s major infrastructure improvement on its water system has a $789,800 price tag, but with a Community Development Block Grant, the town’s cost will be $39,800.
Aycock is working on obtaining another grant that will fund part of the town’s wastewater lagoon improvement and sewer rehab project. It has a projected cost of $1.6 million. More than 100 towns are vying for the CDBG’s $15.6 million in funding.
Mayor Darron Flowers said he was pleased with the new budget.
“It’s a very realistic budget that features a review of the past and staff is to be commended on its work,” he said.
Aycock said she held the line on raising utility rates — for now. Another new law that will take effect July 1 will raise rates on electricity across the state.
“Rates are already high, so we’re holding off on water and sewer increases, but we may need to revisit it during the middle of the fiscal year,” Aycock said.
Other topics included:
— Police Chief Paul Moats suggested the town charge out-of-towners wanting to rent Peele Field. He said he would come up with a formula that would cover the cost of using the lights at the field, and present it at the next board meeting.
— Fremont received notice it could accept money from the Eastern Region economic group. The group disbanded and the money, which Fremont used to reduce its debt, came via the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.
— The town’s next STEP meeting is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in town hall.
— The board recognized the 50th anniversary of the Fremont Rescue Squad.

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