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Budget: ‘Time to tighten our belts’

South Boston Town Manager Ted Daniel said it’s “belt tightening time,” while presenting the town’s proposed $9,171,495 budget for 2014-15 to South Boston Town Council at Monday night’s meeting.

The proposed budget, which does not include any increases in tax rates, licenses or fees, is 3 percent less than the $9,559,927 budget for the current fiscal year.

It proposes using a fund balance of $187,102 to cover Halifax Education Foundation support ($104,000) and a public works vehicle lease program ($140,039), “capital short-term one-of-a-kind expenses,” according to Daniel.

It defers funding for police vehicle replacements, $30,000 in funding for one public works leaf collection machine and public works buildings and grounds maintenance for at least a year.

It also calls for a reduction in public works contract maintenance services and leaves one authorized police position unfilled.

Funding for the town’s pay for performance program also is deferred for one year under the proposed budget.

The evaluation portion of the pay for performance program will continue, Daniel told council.

 “If our tax base doesn’t increase, our tax rates stay the same and produce the same amount of revenue,” said Daniel. “Expenditures will continue to increase, because there is a certain amount of inflation in the system.

“It’s belt-tightening time, everybody on the staff understands that,” added Daniel, reminding council only one tax increase has been approved the past several years, a 1 percent increase in the meals tax two years ago.

Funds from that increase were used to provide support for the Visitor Center, he explained.

“We’ve tightened the belt and tightened the belt again, and how long this goes on, we’ll have to see,” Daniel said.

The budget will require more in-depth participation from department heads than previous budgets, Daniel said.


Finance report

Revenues reflected totals of $8,859,927 in current year funds and $1,359,408 in prior year revenues out of a budget of $10,219,335, Town Finance Office Erle Scott reported on Monday.

The cash operating general fund had a year-to-date balance of $2,001,792, with $81,447 activity for the month.

Selected general fund revenues reflected balances of $1,431,551 in categorical aid (as of March 31) out of a budget of $2,239,240 or 64 percent of budgeted totals; $836,369 in current real estate tax collections out of a budget of $860,000 or 97 percent; and $508,113 in current personal property tax collections out of a budget of $465,000 or 109 percent of budgeted totals.

Personal property tax relief collections reflected totals of $295,432 out of a total of $295,432 or 100 percent; local tax collections $272,067 out of a budget of $385,000 or 71 percent; occupancy tax collections, $95,480 out of a budget of $115,000 or 83 percent; meals tax collections $845,781 out of a budget of $1,100,000 or 77 percent (as of March 31); and business license tax collections, $524,918 out of a budget of $490,000, or 107 percent (as of March 31).

Delinquent tax collections continue to run ahead of projections, with $37,663.97 in delinquent personal property tax relief collected as of March 26.

A total of $99,548.09 in delinquent real estate tax had been collected, and $2,808.58 in delinquent personal property tax had been collected as of March 26, and a total of $179.36 in delinquent mobile home taxes had been collected.

Total delinquent taxes and fees collected as of Dec. 12, including penalties and interest, totaled $194,052.15 out of a budget of $124,300 or 156 percent of budgeted totals.


Fire Department annual report

Members of the South Boston Fire Department and Volunteer Fire Company responded to 2,129 calls for service in 2013, the majority of those medical emergencies, reported South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips.

Over 75 percent of their calls involved medical responses (1,831), including 1,727 for medical assistance, 100 motor vehicle crashes with injuries and four motor vehicle crashes with no injuries.

A total of 1,635 EMS calls were within town limits, and 196 EMS calls were outside town limits, according to Phillips, with his department currently listing 16 members who are trained to respond to emergency medical calls.

His department responded to 28 structure fires in 2013, compared to 16 the previous year, 17 vehicle fires, seven cooking fires and 25 fires related to outside rubbish, natural vegetation and other sources, Phillips reported.

Phillips explained to council the large number of EMS calls could be attributed to an aging population but also lesser injury issues not actually requiring EMS attention.

Several council members asked if EMS calls could be tracked to prevent abuse of the system in the future.

Phillips responded the placement of Emergency Medical Dispatchers at the E-911 Dispatch Center in Halifax may help lessen the numbers of less critical EMT responses.

In coalition with the Halifax County Service Authority, the fire department has resumed a hydrant maintenance program, Phillips reported.

The goal is to annually visit each hydrant within the response area and insure them to be in good working order. 

In his report, South Boston Deputy Chief and Fire Marshall Dwight Spangler reported a number of 66 inspections conducted in 2013, with a total of 225 violations cited.

Follow-up inspections are made to ensure that all violations are corrected, with all cited violations corrected, according to Spangler. 

There are no inspections from 2013 still within the follow-up phase, Spangler told council.