HUNTERSVILLE – Commissioners have approved a town budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1. But the distribution of municipal dollars – specifically in the area of personnel compensation – is expected to change, perhaps as soon as August.
After a brief summary from Finance Director and Interim Town Manager Jackie Huffman at the town board’s June 4 meeting, commissioners voted 5-1 (with Danny Phillips opposed) to adopt a $66 million FY ’19 budget package that keeps the town’s property tax rate at 30.5 cents per $100 valuation and provides a 4-percent pay increase for all town employees.
Approval came one month after Huffman introduced the proposed budget and after several town board budget workshops and a public hearing. The primary changes between introduction and adoption were a $12 increase in residential solid waste fees, a $71,000 reduction in funding for the Huntersville Fire Department (HFD) and a $5,000 bump in municipal contributions to support the Ada Jenkins Center.
The hike in solid waste fees is expected to generate an additional $216,000 to offset some of the difference between solid waste management expenditures and revenue. The annual service is expected to cost about $3.48 million and the fees will generate about $1.5 million. The town pays the difference with its general fund balance.
HFD funding had been a hot topic during budget workshops, with Phillips in particular questioning Chief Jim Dotoli’s request for $171,000 to establish a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week incident commander position. Dotoli’s plan was to add incident commander responsibilities to the duties of five current HFD officers, who would share the job and received additional pay.
But a late adjustment in the department’s request related to overtime compensation altered the funding. Instead of $171,000 for the incident commander post, the adopted budget provides $100,000 to help the HFD with overtime payments that are expected to be between $130,000 and $154,000 during the upcoming budget year.
The increase in financial support for the Ada Jenkins Center was the result of a budget workshop request from Commissioner Brian Hines. The facility provides a wide range of economic, education and employment services for north Mecklenburg residents and an Ada Jenkins request for funding indicated that about 40 percent of its clients are Huntersville residents. Ada Jenkins officials asked the town for $20,000, and in the original budget proposal Huffman suggested the town contribute $10,000. At a May budget meeting, Hines asked for the increase and the majority of commissioners endorsed the change.
Pay changes coming
The budget also funds a $282,000 pool earmarked for payroll adjustments. Town Manager Anthony Roberts, who began duties June 5, plans to conduct a compensation review – including a thorough analysis of police department pay schedules and policies – and present recommendations in August.
At each budget workshop, police pay was discussed, with Huntersville Police Chief Cleveland Spruill saying compensation, career ladder and “compression” (in some cases officers earning less than those they command) issues were making it difficult to recruit and retain qualified law enforcement personnel.
Decisions about how the reserve payroll funds should be distributed, or if more dollars for personnel compensation are needed, are expected after Roberts’ report.