Today is the annual town retreat which consists of staff presentations and board Q&A of budget needs for FYI 2021/22. The town website has the ZOOM information so folks can see and hear the staff and board interactions.
The town retreat will be followed by a series of budget workshops this spring where the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year will be refined. There are always more spending items identified at the retreat than can be included in the upcoming budget. The budget process identifies priorities that need the most immediate funding.
At the May town board meeting the town manager will present a proposed balance budget that goes into effect on July 1. A public hearing for the proposed budget will be set for the June meeting.
At the retreat the report by public works director Lamar Nix always has the most big ticket items. Road paving, sanitation and water and sewer are costly items. I know we have a number of roads that will need repaving.
Over the last several years the board has been very aggressive in funding road paving. We are beginning to catchup. Lamar will present a list of unpaved roads that could be paved. The heavy rains of the last few seasons underscore the ongoing costs of maintaining unpaved roads. From an environmental perspective they are primary contributors to problems with runoff and sedimentation.
I also know Lamar will be requesting the replacement of a large clarifier tank at the water department. The current tank has been in operation for 55 years. The tank service days are numbered.
We also have two major waterline replacements with very high price tags. Earlier this year the staff initiated preliminary construction documents for the replacement of one of these lines. If there is federal funding for such projects, we will quickly submit the plans to the feds for funding.
With all the talk in Washington concerning COVID and infrastructure relief for municipalities, I hope we will get our share to put toward infrastructure like water and sewer upgrades.
Director of Recreation, Lester Norris, will make a presentation on the need to replace the current Houston House near the back entrance to the recreation center. This house is currently being used as an after-school center for young children.
The after-school program is outgrowing the facility. The town will need to begin looking at replacing the house with a more functional building.
In the afternoon, retreat attendees will discuss operations of our sanitation department. We constantly have shortfalls in funding these operations. Future projections indicate rate increases in order to break even. The issue will be what action should be taken to address these shortfalls? Should we accept the need for ongoing rate increases? Can we make changes in operations that would improve the system?
For instance, cutback pickup days for residential and/or commercial customers? Or, should we consider phasing out this department, like many towns have done, and rely on private providers?
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor