In new budget, town employee raises uncertain

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A preliminary new fiscal year budget that most likely will include another water rate increase and might not provide an employee salary hike is now in the Mount Olive mayor and commissioners’ hands for another month of review and adjustments.

Nothing in the preliminary document is “set in stone,” officials said. The town board now has the entire month of April to make adjustments.

Town Manager Charles Brown gave the proposed budget to elected officials last week.

Commissioners plan to discuss the budget during their May meeting and make the document available for public inspection 30 days before its adoption in June.

The town board has already said residents can expect a 5 percent increase in water bills.

Brown said the budget likely won’t include raises for town employees. Mount Olive’s workers routinely receive a 2.5 percent annual salary increase.

“I don’t want this to be set as something already set in stone at this point, because we always try in every way possible to take care of our employees. However, it is going to be difficult this year,” the town manager said.

He explained that the town is under a state mandate to finance a 1.9 percent increase for the upcoming fiscal year in its share of employee retirement benefits.

Brown added that a salary increase for employees depends heavily on the county’s property tax revaluation that is currently underway.

“It may or may not mean additional revenue,” he said.

The budget the town manager handed the mayor and commissioners actually reflects a slight decrease in the proposed general fund budget and a small increase in the water and sewer budget.

His general fund budget is set at $4,092,569, down from the current operating budget of $4,296,174.

The proposed water and sewer budget is up slightly — from $3,136,011 to $3,172,695.

“It is still a work in progress,” Brown said. “People need to understand that the biggest source of revenue we have is property taxes and over the last three years, our property tax revenue has either been flat or has decreased, but still we are going to do everything we can for our employees. I don’t want to discourage them and we will do everything we can for them.”

He added this about employee salaries for the upcoming year, “I am not saying we are not going to do it, but I am saying it is going to be very difficult.”

He said the town board is currently looking at its incoming revenue and will do everything it can to look after employees.

Brown reiterated that issue in saying a big part of what is approved will depend on the property tax revaluation.

“If those figures turn out favorable, we may be able to do something for employees,” he said.

Brown said the projected revenue from property tax revaluation should be available sometime later this month.

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