First Posted: 1/15/2009
ST. PAULS - The town's fund balance is healthy, but the town's tax collection rate needs to improve.
That's the assessment of auditors who reviewed the town's books recently, and reported their findings to the town board on Thursday night.
According to the town's audit for fiscal 2006-07, the municipality currently maintains a fund balance - often referred to as a rainy day fund - of about $550,000, or 37 of the town's total expenditures.
The report, presented to commissioners by Bryon Scott, of Thompson, Price, Scott & Adams, also indicates an overall tax collection rate of about 82 percent. Scott said this rate has dropped from the 2005 collection rate of 95 percent.
Town Administrator Stuart J. Turille Jr. said the a strong fund balance is needed in case of emergencies such as natural disasters.
“There are a lot of towns that would envy us having this large of a fund balance,” Turille said. “The fund balance represents how financially sound a community is.
“You don't want to use this money for just anything, as a Band-Aid. You want to use it for long-term projects such as road, sewer and water improvements.”
Turille said that steps need to be taken to improve an a property tax collection rate of about 86 percent.
“The collection rate for taxes is just too low. There is 14 percent of taxable property that is not being addressed,” he said. “No one likes to pay taxes, but everyone has to pay their fair share.”
The audit was presented shortly after Mayor Gordon Westbrook, incumbent Commissioner Sandra Cain and new Commissioner Gwendolin “Ghee” Johnson were sworn-in for four-year board terms.
“I'm very excited to have the opportunity to work with this fine group,” Johnson said after the meeting. “I didn't make any promises (during the campaign) and I'm just going to do the best I can for all the people of St. Pauls.”
Johnson said she would like to see a local youth center established.
Westbrook, who is beginning his third term as mayor, said after the meeting that during the next year work to improve the town's infrastructure will continue. Economic development efforts will also be high on the town's agenda, the mayor said.
In other business:
Commissioner McClure Terry was reappointed to a two-year term as a Firemen's Relief Fund trustee.
Elbert Gibson was reappointed for another three-year term on the ABC board.
Frankie Blackmon, Paul Glover and Chris Jackson were appointed to three-year terms on the Planning Board.
Town employees will be given Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 off for Christmas, and Jan. 1 off for New Year's. Town offices will be closed those days. Trash usually picked up on Monday and Tuesday will be picked up on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 26 and Dec. 27. Trash that would normally be picked up Tuesday, Jan. 1, will be collected on Wednesday, Jan. 2.