‘19-’20 budget and fiber network finalized

After much research and deliberation, the town’s fiber optic network is a go.

At the May Town Board meeting, commissioners OK’d the construction contract and financing of the project with a $4.6 million loan with BB&T. 

Once the make-ready work fixing drip lines throughout the system is completed, JBL Communications, LLC can begin construction which will take 300 days.

The fiber optic cable will be installed in the power space, on utility pole lines owned by the Town of Highlands to facilitate an Advanced Fiber to the Premise Broadband Network to serve 100% of residential, business and other service points within the town limits. Once constructed, Wide Open Networks will be the single firm to accomplish all services.

This is a major part of the FY 2019-’20 budget which will be adopted following a public hearing scheduled for the June Town Board meeting.

FY 2019-’20 budget

The overall FY 2019-’20 budget has revenues and expenditures totaling $28,640,484.

The ad valorem tax rate remains at 1.64 cents per $100 valuation. The tax rate still include .015 earmarked for recreation capital projects, which is scheduled to sunset June 30 of 2020. The valuations are determined by the Macon and Jackson counties Tax Departments. The rate is based on an approximate in-town property valuation of $1,816,000,000.

All other revenues are projected to be stable with a continued strong Local Option Sales Tax distribution.

The Fire Tax rate will increase from 1 cent to 3 cents per $100 valuation to construct a new fire department main station.

The charges for electrical and sanitation services remain unchanged.

The water/sewer rates will increase effective July 1, 2019 by $2 – from $35 for up to 2,500 gallons used to $37 – to balance the operational budget for those departments. Outside town limits services will remain double the in-town rate.

To present a balanced budget, $660,692 was appropriated from the undesignated General Fund Balance and $1,495,670 was appropriated from the electric reserve fund for a combined total of $2,156,362.

Currently, the current General Fund Balance is approximately $4,000,000; the current General Fund Reserve Balance is approximately $3,800,000; the current Electric Reserve Fund Balance is approximately $4,000,000.

“The Town’s undesignated General Fund Balance remains strong, and with the exception of the Sanitation Department, all Enterprise Funds are stable and covering their operating costs,” said Ward.

Ward said sanitation fees may increase next fiscal year after staff determines how to offset department overtime.

Hickory Hill Road speed limit

Commissioner Brian Stiehler brought the speed limit on Hickory Hill Road to the board because the posted 25 mph is actually too fast for the road which is also hard to navigate due to its condition.

Happily, Hickory Hill Road is one of the four roads slated to be paved this budget year. 

However, instead of only addressing the speed limit on Hickory Hill Road, commissioners agreed to take a comprehensive look at all the roads in the Mirror Lake district before determining a safe speed limit for the area.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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