3-Minute Public Hearing for $8 Million Town Budget
June 8, 2015
On June 4 there was a Public Hearing in Cape Charles Town Hall to “Receive Public Comment on the FY 2015-2016 Proposed Budget and Utility Rates.” I was the only party having comments and questions. I was made aware, that my remarks were limited to three minutes.
After my greeting remarks, some pleasantries, and some thank you’s for having this meeting, I was left with about 2 minutes and 30 seconds for my comments and questions. This was by far not enough time to express the many questions and concerns I had and still have about many inconsistencies and questionable entries made in the proposed budget. However, after three minutes, BIG BEN was ringing at the councilwoman’s desk, reminding me in no uncertain terms to end my remarks. This leaves me with only one option, to ask these questions openly, through local publications.
It is unfortunate that we still – 11 months after closing the books for FY 2013-2014 – do not have audited financial statements. This forced me to compare the proposed 2015-2016 budget with the budget for the previous fiscal year. Please keep also in mind that a good portion of our residents are on fixed income and cannot afford expense increases that exceed inflation.
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1. Are there any discretionary spending positions included in the different expense categories, except the one under General Fund Contingency of $115,438?
2. The auditors recognized in the 2013 statements that there were inadequate internal controls over financial statement reporting. Were these deficiencies corrected in the course of fiscal 2014?
3. Are there any plans to increase the current debt load of approximately $12 million?
4. Are there any plans to increase the marketing activities of Cape Charles in order to promote tourism? If yes, in what expense categories are they included and with what amounts?
5. What is the amount of non-performing assets on our balance sheet? (Like the $100,000 property acquired from Foster).
1. Prior Year Tax Collection went up 18%. Are there any deficiencies in receivable monitoring? Did we have policy changes?
2. Machine and Tools Tax went down by 18%. What are the reasons? (We all can see and hear much more machinery and equipment being used this year, especially in the vicinity of the town harbor.)
3. What is the reason for an increase of 31% in BPOL receipts?
4. Building Permits & Code Enforcement went down 4%. What is the reason? It seems we have more building activity going on this year compared to last year.
5. Recovered Costs & Miscellaneous Income went down 21%. What are the reasons?
6. Financing Proceeds went up 48%. Please explain why.
7. Grants and Local/State/Fed Aid went up 25%. What are these grants used for, and what are the conditions? Are there any repayment provisions involved if they are not used in a timely fashion?
8. Financing Proceeds for Harbor went up 238%. Please explain reasons.
9. Grant Revenue went up $640,000. What is this grant used for?
10. Operating Revenue went down 3%, even after raising the fees this year. Why?
11. Connection fees total $27,065. This seems extremely low, since the hook-up of only one dwelling/business is about $10,000.
12. Financing proceeds went down 13%. Please explain reasons.
13. Facility fees went up 260%. Please explain reasons.
1. Legislative expenses went up 40%. Why?
2. Town Clerk expenses went up 11%. Why?
3. Town Manager expenses went up 9%. Why?
4. Code Enforcement went up by 36%, despite the fact that Revenue decreased by 4%. Please explain reasons. (And why can we not use the existing County Code Enforcement and not duplicate efforts?)
5. Parks and Recreation went up 12%. Why?
6. Capital Expenditures went up 15%. What are these expenditures, and what is the justification?
7. Harbor Debt Service went up 60%. Please explain.
8. Capital expenditures are $870,000 — what are they?.
At the Public Hearing, after about three minutes this agenda item was closed. No questions asked! I was asked to hand over my written questions for review, which I did.
The Town Council moved on (for more than one hour) on the next agenda item, “The Sewage Thematic.” Much more interest was shown, and extensive and some quite controversial discussion revolved around costs per gallon of 1.1 cents or 1.3 cents, paid in advance or after. I have to admit I did not quite understand the subject, since I am missing the extensive background, experience, and history of this topic. No decision was announced.
At around 7:30 p.m. the Council went into a closed session. Another day in our beautiful town ended, with the sun going down behind thick and dark clouds. Even the sun does not seem to look down on our beloved town with so many manmade and unnecessary problems. Let’s make the necessary changes and let’s work together to create a better future for us and our kids.