Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Franklin leaders met on Monday afternoon to begin the planning process for the upcoming budget cycle. Town Manager Summer Woodard laid out the budget for Franklin aldermen and cautioned that based on current revenue and expenditure projects for next year, the town will experience a $34,224 shortfall. The town’s current budget is $8.5 million.

After going through the line items in the town’s budget, Woodard cautioned that there will be less money in the ’17-’18 budget. “Overall, the decrease and increase for this proposed upcoming budget year, you’ll have a shortfall of $34,200,” said Woodard. “One positive bit of good news, it does appear that you will not end up having to anticipate the use of fund balance to balance the current budget for this year, so that’s good news.”

The town of Franklin has an unrestricted fund balance of $650,000. This fiscal year, Woodard had originally predicted needing to spend about $125,000 of that. However, according to Woodard, department heads worked throughout the year to recognize the budget needs and as it stands, the town will finish out the fiscal yer without needing to dip into the fund balance to balance the budget.

The town is also uncertain about health insurance rates, which according to Woodard isn’t looking good for the town right now. Discussions with the town’s providers are estimating an 8 to 10 percent increase in insurance costs for town employees.

Alderman Joe Collins noted that as in any business, personnel is often the greatest expense, and serving on the board for many years, he said he has seen the town have more employees than needed and has seen it with not enough. Collins directed Woodard to closely evaluate the town’s

staffing levels to see if there is any overlap in responsibilities or positions that could be eliminated through attrition.

Woodard also laid out the town’s debt requirements.  For the total for Water and Sewer, the debt is just over $12.4 million; general debt is at over $1.1 million; and the debt on refinancing fire trucks for the town is at just over $220,000, according to Woodard, “So to combine all three funds the total debt for the town of Franklin is $13,786,521.04”

The town’s projected expenditures for services were not presented at the meeting, because not every department has those figures ready, but they will in a few weeks, according to Woodard, “Next will be at your May 1 meeting, we’ll present you with a full budget, so we can start looking at expenditures, then we also have another budget work session set for Monday, May 15, at 5:30.”

Mayor Bob Scott said that with a budget shortfall, the town could be looking at another increase. The town has it within their ability to enact a half cent tax increase to generate the additional revenues needed. Scott also wants to continue following legislation that would permit the town to increase the room occupancy tax from three percent to six percent. Scott called for a two cent increase last year, but aldermen didn’t support it and kept the tax rate the same as the previous year.

Rather than raise taxes, Collins asked if Woodard could look at properties in the town that could potentially be surpluses and sold to generate the additional revenues needed. Woodard said she would compile a list for the board.