Town Council hears upcoming fiscal year budget proposal

Members of the South Hill Town Council convened Monday, May 11 for their first meeting since March. The town had set limitations prior to the meeting on attendance, allowing only 17 people in the doors, after which the doors were locked. The main topic of discussion was the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Town Manager, Kim Callis, presented the budget draft to the Council during the second public hearing of the evening. “So this year, our general fund budget is almost $10.7 million and our water and sewer fund budget is almost $10.1 million. The total town budget is almost $20,800,000.” 

The South Hill Chamber of Commerce funding was increased almost $30,000 for the Chamber to have a “little more autonomy.” The Shops of South Hill requested $50,000 but based on overlap with “a lot of the things that a Chamber would be expected to do”, the Council agreed to allocate $25,000 extra dollars into the Chamber of Commerce funding to be used by The Shops of South Hill for promotional purposes, giving the Chamber a $325,000 budget for the next fiscal year. 

“We want to make everyone aware that many local governments; counties, cities, and towns are facing severe challenges and many of them are reducing staff and reducing services. We have looked at a number of different scenarios. What happens if our revenues are reduced by 25%, or 50%, or 75%? What are things that we need to do to meet whatever is coming at us because there is so much uncertainty?” Callis said. “To that end Council decided that we would suspend almost $1 million. Wages are frozen. There are no tax rate increases in this budget. Unfortunately, the [town’s water supplier] Roanoke River Service Authority is increasing its rate 5.5% and they need to do that because they are facing challenges with keeping qualified personnel.” 

The increased rate will be met with a raise in the town’s current discounted water rate offer to customers from 20% to 25%, offsetting the rate increase from the RRSA. “That’s going to cost [the town] somewhere between $62,000 and $65,000 a month per month.” The water rate will be raised from $6 per gallon for usage to $6.33 as of the July 1 start to the new fiscal year. Town businesses will have to deal with a sewer rate increase from $43.05 to $45.13 however, residents will see no change. 

Expenditures that will be placed on hold include an audio visual system for the council chambers, police vehicles including the in-car video system, and replacement of the code compliance department vehicle. A crew cab vehicle to transport workers from site to site, a motor grader, and a John Deere tractor are on hold for the town maintenance crews. A lawnmower for park maintenance will be postponed as well as repairs to the fencing on the softball fields. The South Hill Volunteer Fire Department will need to have their air packs replaced, a process that will cost over $300,000, which will be paid over four years at $85,000 a year. The town is attempting to obtain some of the funding through grants but Callis pointed out that “it’s not definite at this point.” Total capital expenditures for the general fund are $1,089,930 with about $900,000 suspended. The public is allowed seven days to send written comments or concerns to Town Clerk, Anna Cratch (acratch@southhillva.org).

Finance Director, Sheila Cuttrell, lead the public hearing “regarding the appropriation of additional funds for fiscal year 2019-2020 to include grant funding, insurance refunds, and funding for certain projects and expenses.” The requested appropriations include finance and administration/temporary contract laborers, $21,780, non departmental/legal expenses, $55,000, refunds on taxes, mainly a refund on the BB&T Franchise Tax, $39,210, timber expense for landfill replanting, $16,120, Fire Department Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance, $20,000, grant funding from the Aid to Localities Program, $16,936, street maintenance for asphalt paving $800,000, departmental supplies, $106,575, water distribution system/repairs and maintenance, $25,000, capital outlay, $300,000, waste water treatment plant, $49,038, cemetery maintenance, $800, food hub accounts, $81,284, for a total of $1,531,743. No one was present to speak on this matter at the public hearing. 

Callis reported that he had been in contact with the county’s Emergency Management Cordiantor, Jon Taylor, to discuss possible locations for drive thru COVID-19 testing. Parker Park and the Chase City Fairgrounds were suggested but no final decision has been made at this point.

Other topics of discussion included the vote to hire Adams Construction Company to repave streets throughout town for $524,348. Mayor Dean Marion thanked the Town for the purchase of a time keeper that will, according to Marion, allow for members of Council to be focused solely on the speaker. Councilwoman Millie Bracey stated that she was happy to hear that no cases of COVID-19 had been reported at the Hundley Center. The Southside Rescue Squad will not be hosting their Annual Bucket Drive over Memorial Day weekend this year but instead requested permission to hold the event over the July 4th holiday.