The Smyrna Finance Committee voted Nov. 14 to recommend Town Council approve a proposed 2013 budget that includes a two-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed value.
The recommendation came after three hours of back and forth talk on the 2013 budget. Town Council discussed a previous proposal without a tax increase at a Nov. 5 council meeting, but disagreed with the budget's inclusion of using funds from the Rainy Day Fund.
At the beginning of the Finance Committee meeting, the 2013 proposed budget included no tax increase but taking $510,000 from a general reserve fund and $289,000 from the Rainy Day Fund. Moreover, council members suggested including a $200,000 bucket truck and $150,000 Greens Branch electrical upgrade in the budget.
A rock and a hard place
Throughout the three hour meeting, it was noted several times that the projects and equipment included in the proposed budget were items very much needed in the town.
Town Manager Dave Hugg told the committee several of the items in the budget have been put off for years: "All we're doing is pushing things off."
Finding other ways to cut from the budget also came up. Hugg told the committee they can cut where they want to cut but if there's a snow storm or something breaks, he'll have to address the issue regardless.
"I can't tell you the costs literally until the end of the year numbers have gone through," Hugg said. "This is our best guess of what we'll probably spend."
Projects driving the revenue
As talks continued to get heated, committee member Anthony DeFeo said the committee needed to decided if the revenue would drive the projects or vice versa.
"It seems like projects are driving the revenue and it's leaving a bad taste," DeFeo said.
Since the committee didn't want to make any cuts, the discussion reverted to that of a tax increase.
The committee approved a motion to take $511,000 out of a general reserve fund but voted down a motion to take $289,000 from the Rainy Day Fund.
Not using the Rainy Day Fund would mean a possible 7.75-cent tax increase for the residents though, but the motion caused a 2-2 stalemate.
At this point, the $200,000 bucket truck was taken out of the budget.
Eventually, Hugg suggested the committee vote on a budget including taking $511,000 from the general reserve fund, a two-cent tax increase, and a spending restriction of $289,000 through March. He suggested this since the committee couldn't agree on using the Rainy Day Fund or a high tax increase.
The town will have their final numbers in by March and we'll also have a better sense of the economy by then, Hugg said.
"We can come back and we'll have a better sense of what the numbers look like," Hugg said.
The committee approved the suggestion 4-0.
After the fact, Mayor Pat Stombaugh wasn't happy with the proposed budget.
"I wish we could resolve this without a tax increase but there's stuff we've put off we truly need," Stombaugh said.
Smyrna Town Council discuss, consider and possibly vote on the budget at their meeting Monday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at town hall.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.