WAGRAM — The Wagram Board of Commissioners got a first look at the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year at its Thursday meeting and set a date for public input.
The estimated budget for the 2018/ 19 fiscal year is $396,098.
That figure includes $133,862 to fund the police department; $104,479 for the street department, $5,500 funding for the town’s nutrition site and $9,000 to the fire department.
The public hearing for the budget is set for June 27 at 4:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
The plan also calls for a two-percent pay raise for town employees.
The tax rate of 65 cent per $100 valuation will stay the same.
But residents will see a slight increase in water and sewer rates. Both rates will increase by $1. The increase is necessary due to increased operational costs and needed upkeep on aging equipment, officials said.
“Chemicals have gone up; they keep going up, and plus this past winter a lot of our chemicals went out on the ground when we had all the water leaks,” Town Clerk Phyllis Lowery said. “You have a sewer system that has been in now over 10 years and at your pump stations, you have parts that is going out and we’re having to replace impellers which is several thousand dollars per impeller. Just maintenance on the sewers are over $10,000 this year.”
Mayor Milton Farmer and Commissioner Robert McLaughlin said another issue had been people pouring cooking grease down their drains rather than in the trash.
“We want to make sure that the public knows, please do not put grease down their drains,” Farmer said. “Some people will cook a pan of chicken and pour it right down the sink. We don’t want that.”
Water rates will rise to $18 for the flat rate and the $2.50 rate per 1,000 gallons will stay the same for customers in the city limit, under the proposal. For those outside city limits, the flat rate will become $23 with $4.20 per 1,000 gallons.
Sewer rates could rise to $19 for the flat rate for city residents, and residents outside city limits will now pay $23. The per 1,000 gallon rate for sewer is the same as the water rate.
If the town had not raised the rate, they said there would have been a budget deficit for the upcoming year.
“We have to realize that prices constantly go up. We’ve just been absorbing it, so we haven’t really raised any of the rates in the last few years,” said Farmer. “But there comes a time where we can’t keep biting the bullet, so we have to raise it occasionally. We’re not doing it because we want to. We’re doing it because we’re a business, and businesses need to make a little profit. We’re doing what we can the best we can.”
Lowery projects that water usage fees will bring in $119,347 in revenue and sewer rates will bring in $117,411.
In other business, the board discussed filling the seat left vacant by the death of Commissioner William Paschal Stewart in April.
Farmer suggested Wagram Fire Chief Neil Shaw only to learn that Shaw had been asked and had already turned down the position. The board asked Lowery to contact additional individuals.
Lowery also requested several budget amendments to cover expenses for the rest of the fiscal year two of which were for supplies at the maintenance department and to cover an increase in the cost of chemicals used by the water and sewer department. The total amount of funds transferred by line item were $2,824.
The commissioners also discussed purchasing decorative banners to hang along Main Street. The 10 banners will cost $1,800. One group will say welcome and the other will say Town of Wagram Home of the Lumber River and feature a silhouette of a person paddling a canoe. The board would like to have the banners in place by Independence Day, but it is more likely that the order will arrive after than that date, according to Lowery.
Lowery is also looking for volunteers to serve on the zoning board and board of adjustments. The boards need residents who live both in city limits and outside city limits.
Those looking to serve on the boards can reach Lowery at 910-369-2776.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169