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West Jefferson town employees could see 1 percent raise

Originally published: May. 2, 2013
Last modified: May. 2, 2013

Adam Orr

Coming one step closer to completing the town of West Jefferson’s 2013-14 budget, the Board of Aldermen tentatively approved a 1 percent Cost of Living raise for town employees.

After much discussion, the board unanimously supported the adjustment during its April 25 budget work session, although the decision will not become final until aldermen approve the entire document, which state law requires they must do by June 30.

West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price had originally proposed a 1.5 percent COLA for town employees, which he said would keep salaries and wages in line with cost of living increases from the past year.

“I feel the increase is needed to keep good morale, avoid turnover of a great staff and this would promote and reward loyalty to all our employees,” Price said.

Combined with an additional 5.9 increased cost in health care, town employees will receive the equivalent of 2.1 percent in increased salaries and benefits.

The proposal follows a 2.5 percent raise in the 2012-13 budget, according to Price, after several years with no upward adjustment.

Price also told the board it had $1.1 million in unassigned available fund balance.

“We need a savings account but I don’t think we need that much,” said Alderman Calvin Green, though Alderman Brett Summey cautioned that it was wise to protect the town’s fund balance especially with the uncertain national and state economic outlook.

Price told the board it could like spend $50,000 to $80,000 for sidewalk repairs on Main Street, if they felt it necessary, while Alderman Summey and Stephen Shoemaker both agreed the sidewalk needed to be fixed as soon as possible. 

“You better wait until (we find out what it is going to cost to engineer .... drain lines,” said Alderman Tom Hartman, referencing ongoing sewer maintenance.

The proposed budget, released April 23, includes $1.493 million in projected tax revenue, although Price warns property tax collections will likely remain flat with no new business activity.

Budget figures indicate the town has collected more than $1.6 million in revenues through the first nine months of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Price proposes $373,000 in total administrative expenses, $549,000 in spending for the West Jefferson Police Department, and $71,100 in spending on West Jefferson Park, in addition to $30,000 for West Jefferson Town Attorney David Paletta, $3,000 for three facade grants and $10,000 in spending for the town’s 100-year anniversary celebration in 2015.

In 2012-13, general fund revenue accounted for 60 percent of all revenues, and the town left the tax rate at 42 cents per $100 valuation, as it was during the 2011-12 year. Of that 42 cents, 39 cents went to the general fund and 3 cents went to West Jefferson Park.

Alderman also adopted a resolution of support seeking a “substantial appropriation to the (North Carolina) Rural Center,” on April 25.

Throughout the state’s 85 rural counties, the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center work to promote local, sustainable small business and agriculture, community grant programs, and improving leadership in rural communities.

“The Town of West Jefferson Board of Aldermen urges the State Legislature to resist efforts to remove $10 million from the Rural Center funding as the Governor’s proposed budget has indicated,” according to the resolution. “Public infrastructure is critical to economic development, including job creation and private investment, and small towns in rural areas cannot tax and raise rates to finance these kinds of projects for infrastructure without having some assistance from the Rural Center.”


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