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Erwin budget vote planned for July 13; no tax increase currently included

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Erwin has completed a series budget workshops with the final meeting taking place on June 30.

According to Town of Erwin City Recorder Travis Bishop, the final budget will be the one that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will vote on during a meeting scheduled for Monday, July 13.

“The budget could possibly change if something comes up before the next meeting, but as of right now, it looks like this is it,” Bishop said.

The proposed $5.422 million budget will go before the BMA as it stands and it does not include a property tax increase, according to town officials.

Bishop credits the $132,823 revenue over operating expenditures to solid planning and from the Town of Erwin having a limited impact from COVID-19.

“We really budgeted well and luckily we were not hit as hard as some other municipalities by COVID-19,” Bishop said. “In some areas, we actually saw sales tax growth during the early stages of the pandemic.”

The 2020-21 budget includes $1.18 million in capital projects and $1.4 million in state-funded street improvements. There is also $1.16 million set aside for street projects, including street resurfacing.

Capital projects included in the 2020-21 budget include completing the installation of a permanent traffic signal that is currently being constructed in front of the Food City entrance on Second Street. There are also several street resurfacing projects and sidewalk repairs included in the budget that did not get completed in the 2019-20 budget year.

Other capital projects in the budget include a new liner for the swimming pool at Fishery Park. The total amount budgeted for the swimming pool was $18,000 and includes everything from upkeep, supplies and employees to care for the pool.

Community Development Block Grants totalling $250,000 for capital projects were awarded without any matching funds or any costs to the town.

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Also during the June 30 meeting, the BMA agreed on a two-percent raise for all town employees. Along with the two percent raise, the board also agreed to increase the salaries for employees of the street department by $2 an hour. According to Bishop, this move was to bring the department’s employees with the least amount of tenure to level up with the other employees.

Alderwoman Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz raised concerns about how the town would pay for the raises going forward.

“I have concerns on the recurring expense, and where that money will come from year to year,” Hyder-Shurtz said. “I’m for raising the employees’ wages to $12 an hour that do not already make that hourly wage with the promise to implement the step pay system the next year. We have got to find ways to bring in revenue other than raising taxes.”

Hyder-Shurtz clarified that she fully supports the town’s employees.

“I think we have wonderful public works and parks and recreation departments,” Hyder-Shurtz said. “My hesitation has nothing to do with their work ethic or dedication to their job.”

Aldermen Michael Baker said he was happy with the work that the board had put into creating the budget.

“I am very pleased with the budget,” Baker said. “Everything went fine and we can move on to the next phase.”

According to Mayor Doris Hensley, any changes that occur before the next scheduled board meeting or on the day of the meeting can be discussed then.

“If there are any changes to the budget or any that need to be changed, we can do so at the July meeting,” Hensley said.

The Town of Erwin BMA is scheduled to meet and vote on the 2020-21 budget on Monday, July 13, at 5:30 p.m. at Erwin Town Hall.