Budget talks continue as departments make their case

Pineville police need $160,000 worth of new vehicles and the fire and public works departments need more paid employees as departments lay out their budget wish lists for town leaders to consider.

Those were just a few of a number of requests from town departments for funding needs proposed for the 2014-15 fiscal budget. Budget season is well under way in Pineville, as town administrator Haynes Brigman and recently hired finance director Richard Dixon work together with town department heads to create a proposal that will be presented to town council on May 13. A lot of research and reorganization has gone into planning of the 2014-15 fiscal budget, as the current 2013-14 budget was put together by town leaders without the guidance of both a town administrator and finance director – both positions were vacant last budget season.

But Pineville Police Department Chief Rob Merchant, Fire Chief Bill Griffin and Public Works Director Chip Hill all had their chance April 2, a Wednesday, to plead their cases for funding.

“For this year’s budget (workshops), what we’ve done is included all of (the department’s) requests,” Brigman said at the April 2 budget workshop. “Every single request will not be approved, but we’ll discuss that as we go.”

The Pineville Volunteer Fire Department has seen an increase in calls over the past several years, Griffin said, and it’s getting harder to ensure enough people are on call at the department, especially during weekend hours on Friday and Saturday. Griffin requested town council add $25,000 to the department last year to have two extra EMT-certified staff working the station on weekends as calls go up on nights people more often get together for parties. The request didn’t make it in this year’s budget, but Griffin is hopeful council will consider the request this year. The fire department is asking for an additional $30,000 in funding to cover costs of paid staff for those weekend shifts. Additionally, the department has requested an $8,100 increase to cover a $1 per hour pay raise for current part-time employees and a $6,000 paid stipend for the fire chief. That brings the department’s requested budget in at $609,000, 3 percent lower than last year’s budget.

The town also will implement a capital improvement plan this budget season, which will pull projects that will cost the town $25,000 or more out of the general budget to help the town better prepare for large expenditures. The CIP is a fluid document, Brigman said at the meeting, and can change over time.

One of those CIP expenditures for 2014-15 is a new pick-up truck for the fire department, budgeted for $45,000.

“The purpose for the utility vehicle is to do everyday duties – pick up supplies, assist in emergency,” Griffin said at the workshop. “We haven’t had a new utility vehicle in some time.”

The Pineville Police Department again this year is looking to replace four of its police cruisers. The department has about 12 that already have more than 100,000 miles, Merchant said at the budget workshop, and about four that have more than 90,000 miles. But as long as they can continue to replace about four to five cars each year, Merchant said, the department shouldn’t have any major problems. They’re asking for $160,000 this year to replace four cars – that’s included in the CIP.

“We’re fine with police cars as long as we get four to five a year, we’ll be in good shape,” Merchant said. “We do need to stay on that schedule.”

The police department’s proposed operating budget shows a 1 percent decrease from the current budget year. At $4,315,804, the biggest differences will come in the cost of contract services, which includes a 17 percent increase from the current year in cleaning contracts and maintenance contracts for the department’s tower, server room, software and more. The proposed budget also includes a 4 percent increase for salaries and benefits, which accounts for the bulk of the budget, coming in at $3,020,954.

The Pineville Public Works Department is advocating for three new positions next year, to reorganize the department to better meet the needs of the town. Pineville has moved to do more in-house work over the past several years, like vehicle repairs, landscaping and road repairs and general maintenance in the town’s parks. The in-house work has brought significant cost savings to the town, leaders said at the workshop, but in order to keep up, Chip Hill, public works director, hopes town leaders will make an investment in two more maintenance workers and an administrator for the department. If the new positions are approved, the department would need $409,738 to cover salaries and benefits, a 36 percent increase from last year. Additionally, the department is seeking $85,000 in new equipment. Their proposed budget with new employees comes in at $773,938.

Public works also hopes to seek several items on the CIP, including a new pick-up truck, at $35,000, and a $100,000 investment in a new dump truck. That investment would be split up over a four-year period.

More budget proposals will come forward as discussions continue with town departments. The next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, April 17, will take place at 5 p.m. in the police department training room, 427 Main St.


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