Foresight Eyed In Town Budget

Published 5:21 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

FARMVILLE – Town Council received quick confirmation that its budget committee's aim to anticipate when a piece of equipment might fail is wisely targeted.

Bull's-eye, in fact.

Seconds after telling council members about the preliminary budget committee meeting last week, Town Manager Gerald Spates sought, and received, permission to seek bids on a new machine to paint the lines on town streets.

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The unbudgeted expense is likely to be in the $57,000 to $60,000 range, if a new machine is purchased.

Spates described the Town's current paint machine as “an antique.”

So when budget committee chair, Dr. Edward I. Gordon, subsequently told council the committee wanted to anticipate what would otherwise be unanticipated, and therefore unbudgeted, expenses, no arms needed twisting to understand the wisdom of doing so.

“We'll be accumulating data and one of the things we'll be getting prior to the next meeting is some of the lists from the different departments on what they're going to be thinking they need,” Dr. Gordon said, briefing council members on the committee's first meeting.

Rather than asking department heads solely about what they need in the next 12 months they will be asked to think another year down the road, to anticipate the unexpected.

“And it also came up about needing something this year but what… could possibly go next year, so we have an idea,” he said, regarding equipment that might be expected to breakdown or wear out in the next 24 months. “Maybe it will not make it to next year, or maybe some great deal will come up (to buy a replacement). So we want to have everything as built in as possible, try and get as much contingency funds as possible, and as much built into the fund for vehicle purchases as possible.”

Spates told council members that preliminary figures will be presented to the budget committee by next month's work session. “We're taking a look at all the department heads' wish lists of things that they would like to do,” the town manager said.

Dr. Gordon explained how the three-person committee will work, with himself, elected chair by the two other members, Donald L. Hunter and David E. Whitus.

Other council members are welcome to attend but must be content to listen to the discussion.

“Everybody else is welcome to come-as guests-but they won't be able to speak during the meeting because it's a subcommittee meeting but of course you're all welcome to come,” he said.

“We're looking at basically seeing if there's a way to get a budget to you all that is going to be more comprehensive, less surprises, and get an idea of how we want it to be, have some savings built into it in case they're some surprises,” Dr. Gordon said, after the surprise of the need for a new paint machine for town streets.

The budget committee will embrace a different strategic approach for development of the 2013-14 budget, though there will be ample opportunities for council members not on the committee to shape the budget and its final form.

“In a way, it's an abbreviated form of, much more abbreviated than we did before,” he said, “and of course it will be brought to work session where everyone can discuss it. We will be making suggestions, that's about it. We'll be accumulating data and one of the things we'll be getting prior to the next meeting is some of the lists from the different departments on what they're going to be thinking they need.”

But, again, not just for next year, but looking two years down the road, perhaps three.

The budget committee came up with no specific budget recommendations, other than the broad outline he offered, Dr. Gordon noted.

“We came up with nothing to really report to you. I'm just letting you know, basically, how this is functioning,” he explained.

And in what time-frame.

“It's going to be something that's not going to be very extensive; we're looking at maybe three months, two months to three months worth of us meeting,” Dr. Gordon said, before adding that Spates and Town Treasurer Carole Anne Seal will provide budgetary information “to us earlier this year, for us to look over, so that once all that takes place then we'll be able to talk more at work session about all this as a group.

“And if anybody has anything they'd like us to talk about,” Dr. Gordon added, “we'll more than welcome suggestions.”