It's been another tough budgeting process for the Town of Smyrna.
Town officials are finding it difficult to finance what's needed to properly run the town but still have a balanced budget without significant increases to fees, bills and taxes.
The Smyrna Finance Committee agreed on a proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget Saturday to send to Smyrna Town Council for approval.
The proposed budget is tight and doesn't include many new purchases, but still includes possible tax and fee increases just to balance the budget.
Town Manager Dave Hugg said following the meeting Saturday that the proposed 2014 budget includes the following: a property tax increase of five cents per $100 of assessed value, a water and sewer rate increase of five percent, a trash fee increase of $3, and an electric fee increase of roughly two percent.
Hugg said the total impact for residents per month would be about $10 or $11.
"We are borrowing $500,000 from our general fund reserve," Hugg said. "This is a one-time action and we'll do everything we can to avoid using it."
Hugg said the town faced possibly borrowing from the general fund reserve this year but didn't. He said the town doesn't anticipate having to use funds from the general fund reserve.
If the budget is approved by council, the property tax rate would go up from 31 cents to 36 cents per $100 of assessed value. The five-percent increase for the water and sewer fee won't stop this year; Hugg said there will also be five-percent increases to the rate in 2015 and 2016. The $3 increase for the trash fee from $28 to $31 per month is two-fold.
"It's partially to offset the DSWA (Delaware Solid Waste Authority) increases but mostly to deal with the additional cost of picking up yard waste," Hugg said.
Items in the budget include a water truck, a replacement vehicle in the electric department, a police vehicle, funding for continued electrical segments work, increases to healthcare and training.
Not included in the budget are two needed positions and more heavy equipment. The town, if the budget is approved, will defer about $700,000 worth of needed equipment. Hugg said there are pieces of equipment that have high mileage or are past their year of replacement.
"All we're doing is pushing the problem forward," he said.
The town had hoped to add a human resources manager and a junior accountant next year.
"We're a growing organization and these are two areas where we are understaffed. We're an organization with over 100 employees," Hugg said. "We have no personnel person so that's additional work added on us and Gary [Stulir] is stretched thin."
Stulir is the manager of accounting and business services.
The committee may have agreed to recommend the proposed budget to council, but several committee members weren't exactly happy with the end result.
"My biggest objection is using the reserve to balance the budget. Hopefully we won't have to use it," said committee member and Vice Mayor Regina Brown. "I do ask all the departments that just because the money is in the budget doesn't mean you need to go out and spend it. Be very, very cautious about it."
The Town of Smyrna will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget at the Monday, Dec. 2 Smyrna Council meeting.
Email Jennifer Dailey at email@example.com.