The Stuart Town Council scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, May 17 to approve its revised fiscal year 2023-2024 budget.
The proposed budget is set to not exceed $1,994,900.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons said the budget is tight.
“We don’t have a lot of just free money floating around,” he said.
Mayor Ray Weiland said the county is not proposing any increase to taxes, utilities, fees, and other items.
“Everyone’s going to get a bump for pay all the way across the board, and I think overall, our increase for payroll may be around nine percent,” he said, adding the increase does not apply to council members.
Weiland said the town’s income from water has significantly increased because of the construction on U.S. 58. The town has sold a lot of water for the work being done.
The amount raised from the meals tax has also increased significantly.
“We are collecting close to $400,000, and we’re budgeted at $330,000. Our property taxes are coming in higher and everything else. Even though we didn’t raise taxes, I guess we’re just collecting more,” he said.
Simmons said the water and sewer revenues do not cover the funds to expense water and sewer.
“We have some offset of our water and sewer expenses from the general fund, and that is typically frowned upon when you are applying for either USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) funds or any sort of capital improvement bond that we would need to take on,” he said.
The rule of thumb is that the water a locality sells should pay for its expenses, Simmons said, adding he believes a rate analysis of water and sewer is needed.
Noting that it’s been a while since the town recalculated the costs, Weiland said “all of our costs have gone way up. In the water side, I know that the (costs for) chemical side” have increased.
“We haven’t really done a calculation on our costs. We need to do that again to verify what it truly costs us. I guarantee it’s gone up significantly,” Weiland said.
The spending plan anticipates $1,106,000 in total general fund revenues for fiscal year 2023-24, and a total operating expense of $479,429.
The total general fund revenues includes an anticipated $395,000 in meals tax, $275,000 in property taxes, $150,000 for business licenses, $150,000 for franchise fees, $46,000 in state sales tax, and other incomes.
In other matters, the council:
*Heard from Stuart Volunteer Fire Department Captain Buddy Dollarhite about the department’s need assessment.
*Approved allowing Simmons to make an offer to candidates for the Utilities Director position based on their ranking.
*Approved increasing the town’s appropriation for fireworks, from $600 to $1,000.
*Discussed the audit.
*Discussed grant applications.
*Heard an update on the waste-water treatment plant.
*Heard an update on public works.
*Paid the bills as revised.
*Approved the meeting minutes.