Mayor Pro Tem Neil McCarroll kicked off the discussion of the 2008/09 budget at the Aug. 20 Town Council meeting by saying, “This is going to be tedious.”
The budget discussion, which has been going on for months now, ever since the Council realized they were heading into the red last January, seemed to be coming down to some hard numbers at the meeting and Council members McCarroll and Jo Bacon were not ready to throw the towel in yet. The two have been sitting on the subcommittee designated at the July 16 Council meeting to study the budget and find alternatives to raising contractor fees in order to balance things. Two members of the public as well as Town staff members were also part of subcommittee meetings.
The discussion came down to the proper amount for the blended rate fee. Town staff, specifically Deputy Town Manager Karen Johnston had come up with a rate of $150 per hour. The fee is a blend of the planner who is working on a development project, plus the five or six support staff members who help with all the paperwork of the permitting process. The amount of $150 is just a reference point, and as Johnston stated, “No one will actually receive a bill in the amount of $150 an hour.”
In other words the blended amount is very much an average number. Depending on what level of planner is working on your project, the fee will vary. This average is less than the original $160 Town staff had suggested, however still high in comparison to specialized, private firms that only charge a blended rate of $101.
While the developers and contractors in the audience suggested that Council wait to adopt the $150 number if they just planned to lower it again, Council was itching to approve a balanced budget, a task that is now almost two months behind schedule. Therefore they approved the balanced budget before them, which cut an additional $353, 330 by cutting funded, yet unfilled positions such as a Building Official and a Police Officer.
The budget subcommittee will meet again before Sept. 1 and then report back to Council with more massaged numbers at the first Council meeting in October once Council woman Bacon is back from vacation.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. in Suite Z.