Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
When Franklin Town manager Summer Woodard announced her resignation as Franklin’s Town Manager last month, she agreed to stay in Franklin through the budget cycle. Monday night Woodard submitted her final budget proposal to Franklin leaders. Woodard’s proposed budget calls for the town’s tax rate to remain at .32 cents per one hundred dollars of valuation.
The Town of Franklin endured uncertain economic times this past year like everyone else. However, due to the financial diligence of Mayor Scott, the Town Council and town staff, the Town of Franklin is in a strong economic position. Sales tax revenue is projected to increase by $100,000. However, the Town of Franklin should continue to monitor investment earnings in the General Fund and in the Water and Sewer Fund. Investment earnings in both General and Water/ Sewer have been reduced to represent what is expected to be collected. The Town should also continue to plan for unexpected revenue loss at the state and federal level. This budget allots $20,000 in contingency in anticipation of unexpected revenue loss or unexpected expenditures.
The Town of Franklin continues to operate in sound financial condition due to a healthy fund balance. At the close of fiscal year 2019-2020, the available fund balance as a percentage of expenditures of general fund was at 82 percent. This is an increase of four percent since the close of fiscal year 2018-2019. Overall, general government revenues are expected to remain the same. Based on current estimates, general fund revenues are projected at $4,371,043. The budget includes an appropriation in general fund of $221,780 from the Powell Bill. This budget also recommends a one-time appropriation from general fund balance of $418,736. This budget is balanced on the current tax rate of $0.32 cents per $100 of valuation. The current tax rate is recommended for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. The Town of Franklin currently has a tax collection rate of 95 percent.
This budget allots for a performance-based payment for most full-time positions. Part-time and probationary employees are not eligible for a performance-based payment. The performance-based payment is a one-time payment based on the Town’s evaluation policy and is suggested for December 2021. This budget includes a two percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for fiscal year 2021-2022. Life insurance premiums are expected to remain at current budgeted rates. The Town’s health insurance is expected to increase by 10 percent. The Town’s paid portion of dependent coverage for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 will be 32 percent for spouse, 53 percent for child/children and 48 percent for family. Dental insurance is projected to remain at current budgeted rates. Property and workers compensation premiums are expected to increase by five percent.
This budget includes one new full-time position in the Planning Budget for a Code Enforcement Officer. This position is budgeted at the rate of a sworn Police Officer and includes all benefits. This position is recommended due to the increased number of dilapidated buildings and homes in the Town of Franklin. This position would enforce all code violations for the Town of Franklin.
In Fiscal Year 2021-2022, $10,000 has been budgeted for economic development. This is accounted for in the Governing Board budget.
Other Professional Services:
This budget allots $20,000 for a peer support position in partnership with Macon County. This is accounted for in the Governing Board budget.
The Streets Department is budgeted $23,000 for the completion of an ADA Transition Plan. This plan is state mandated and must be completed before June 30, 2022.
Water and Sewer Administration is budgeted $25,500 for a Water and Sewer Financial Analysis Zoned Rate System.
The Town will be working on securing funding for phase two of the Water Treatment Plant Upgrade and Expansion in fiscal year 2021-2022. This budget also addresses needs in the Town’s Water and Sewer Comprehensive Improvements Plan (CIP).
CIP projects for fiscal year 2021-2022:
– Replacement of 200 water meters. Total cost is $80,000.
– East Franklin Pump Station improvements. Total cost is $159,000.
– Crane Circle/Lakeside Drive Sewer Line replacement. Total cost is $515,000.
– Clyde Street Water Line replacement. Total cost is $552,000.
– Allman Drive Water Line replacement. Total cost is $8,000.
– Apple Tree Water Line replacement. Total cost is $12,000.
Capital Outlay Equipment
The IT Department needs to upgrade the Key Scan System. Funds have been budgeted at $23,129 for this upgrade. Also, the IT Department needs to purchase SAN hard drives. Funds have been budgeted at $12,800 for this purchase.
The Facilities budget allots $7,800 for tax software upgrade.
Wastewater Treatment Plant needs to purchase a conversion kit for converting the belt drive and an aerator. The total cost for this is $13,127.
Water Treatment Plant needs to purchase a forklift. The total cost for this is $17,000.
Capital Outlay Improvements
Funds have also been budgeted for sidewalk repair and replacement. For Fiscal Year 2021-2022 the Town plans to address several areas in Town that are in dire need of repair and replacement. These areas include the following:
– Harrison Avenue replacement of 630 LF of sidewalk, from 303 Harrison Ave to Courtney Lane.
– Maple Street replacement of 1,100 LF of Sidewalk.
– Installation of ADA Compliant Curb Ramps at East Dogwood
– Installation of ADA Compliant Curb-Ramps and Crosswalk at Dan Street
Capital Outlay Vehicles
Police Department will be replacing two patrol vehicles. The total cost for the vehicles is $62,000.
Public Works will be replacing one fleet vehicle. This budget allots $35,000 for this purchase.
The Facilities budget accounts for upgrading to LED lights in Town Hall. This budget allots $2,800 for this upgrade.
Public Works will be upgrading to LED lights at their facility. This budget allots $5,100 for this upgrade.
All debt payments are budgeted as required by law. General debt service principal is budgeted at $134,044 and interest at $9,406. Fire Department debt service principal is budgeted at $40,000 and interest at $8,071. Water and Sewer’s debt service principal is budgeted at $855,844 and interest at $138,594.
SunTrust loan for General, Water, and Sewer projects were entered into in 2012 and will be paid in 2024. The current total loan amount for SunTrust is $1,479,000.
United Community Bank loan was entered into 2020 and will be paid in 2030. The current total loan amount for United Community Bank is $444,410.17.
Bank of America for Water and Sewer projects was entered into in 2010 and will be paid in 2025. The current total loan amount for Bank of America is $1,099,350.57.
State Revolving Loan for Wastewater Treatment Plant was entered into in 2013 and will be paid in 2033. The current total loan amount for this project is $3,373,814.60.
State Revolving Loan for Water Treatment Plant was entered into in 2018 and will be paid in 2038. The current total loan amount for this project is $2,766,593.70.
Franklin Fire Department: Based on current estimates fire tax revenues are projected at $939,647 for fiscal year 2021-2022. The Fire Department’s current property tax rate is $0.0545 cents per $100 of valuation. The current property tax rate is recommended for fiscal year 2021-2022 budget. Based on the current fire tax rate a modest appropriation from fund balance of $15,615 will be needed for fiscal year 2021-2022. Also, fire call pay for volunteers is expected to remain at current rates. Current rates are $10 for medical calls and $12 for base fire calls with a $2 increment based on certifications with a maximum allowance of $20 per call. A one-time bonus of $100 for each volunteer member of Franklin Fire and Rescue is budgeted and suggested for December 2021.
Water and Sewer Department: Funds are budgeted in the amount of $674,000 for Capital Outlay Distribution Sewer Line improvements. East Franklin Pump station is budgeted at $159,000 for replacement. Funds are also budgeted in the amount of $515,000 for Crane Circle/ Lakeside Side Drive Sewer Line. Capital Outlay Distribution Water Line improvements are budgeted in the amount of $572,000; Clyde Street Water Line replacement is budgeted at $552,000; Allman Drive Water Line replacement is budgeted at $8,000; Apple Tree Water Line replacement is budgeted at $12,000. All of these projects are part of the Town’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). The basin at the water plant only needs to be cleaned every five years. However, this budget allots funding of $30,000 this fiscal year to continue a reserve account for this project in preparation for cleaning the drainage basin in the future. The total estimated cost to clean the drainage basin is $150,000.
Water and Sewer Rates:
The Town continues to experience slow growth in water and sewer revenues. It is paramount that the Town of Franklin ensures water and sewer revenues can sustain expenditures and debt service payments in order to maintain existing infrastructure along with future water and sewer infrastructure.
Based on current estimates water and sewer revenue combined are projected at $5,211,972 for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. A modest appropriation from water and sewer retained earnings of $1,5l7,772 is recommended. Withers-Ravenel completed a detailed water and sewer rate analysis in April 2020. In order to maintain the existing infrastructure, upgrade/expand of phase two for the Water Treatment Plant, and fund the Town’s Comprehensive Improvements Plan, a modest water and sewer rate increase is recommended. A three percent rate increase is recommended for water and sewer for fiscal year 2021-2022. The proposed rate increases only affect base and volume charges but not tap, connection, or other miscellaneous charges.
The Town of Franklin should consider financing for the Clyde Street Water Line replacement in the amount of $552,000 and for Crane Circle/Lake Side Drive Sewer Line replacement in the amount of $515,000. Both of these Capital Projects are desperately needed for the future development on that area of Town. The Town of Franklin should also consider using some money from the American Rescue Plan to go towards these two projects.
Manager Budget Cuts:
The Streets Department requested funding for plantings and a water feature in the roundabouts located on Womack, Maple, Porter and Depot Street. The Streets Department solicited proposals for these projects and the total was $50,000. This total included a water feature at Womack Street roundabout, electrical boxes in all four (4) roundabouts and plantings in all four roundabouts. However, due to budget constraints funding was cut for these projects. The Town of Franklin should consider using money form the American Rescue Plan to go towards these projects.
This budget for Local Fiscal Year 2021-2022 is balanced as required by law and continues to provide existing services while meeting the governing board’s priorities and policies. The total proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 is $10,522,662.00. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 addresses long term infrastructure planning and capital necessities for the Town of Franklin while maintaining a healthy fund balance and providing quality services in a cost-effective manner.