Thursday, May 22, 2014

Davidson Budget: The Good

Davidson Commissioners are getting ready to vote on the proposed next town budget in a few weeks - possibly by June 10th.  With that in mind it's time to commence the annual budget review we do here at aShortChronicle.  This year there is plenty of material to work with, so rather than a single post it will be a series called "The Good", "The Bad", "The Downright Ugly".

Let's jump right in with "The Good", and I do truly believe there are some nuggets of goodness in this budget.  There are actions taken that show solid decision making and a movement towards prioritizing spending towards the true responsibilities of government and away from things that frankly government should not be doing.  It's safe to say some of this is the result of the new blood on the Board after last fall's elections.  That's a good sign for the future.

In this previous post we mentioned that the Board was discussing possible increases to the solid waste fees for single family homes to implement weekly recycling and re-instituting fall leaf pickup.  This really needed to be a data driven decision, and it appears that's what has happened.  After receiving the results of the latest citizen survey, there was little support for increasing these fees, and they have been dropped from the discussions.  Moreover, on the recycling side it has since become known that any house wanting an extra recycle bin can actually pay for it directly with the town's solid waste company.  That's the right way to handle this for the very, very small number of homes that may actually need it.  As an added bonus, solid waste fees will actually be dropping for the town's multi-family units to $60 per year.

On the public safety side Davidson's fire department will now be fully funded to have 4 fire fighter/EMTs on call 24/7.  That brings the town's fire protection service up to standard and allows for 2-in/2-out activity on fire calls which increases safety for our first responders.  In the past this was not the case at least some of the time.  Davidson's new Board deserves credit for increasing funding to allow this.  The increased cost was about $75,000, but that's money very well spent.

As another example of good prioritization, the Town has also confirmed that new local dollars won't be going to the Davidson Design for Life program once the current grant funding runs out.  Per town Finance Director Cindy Jones, "DD4L is funded through the project fund, not the general fund.   There are no funds budgeted in the general fund for DD4L program or health impact assessment work."  And that's a good thing. currently this funding comes from a grant from the CDC, and if it continues funding needs to come from outside of the town.  The HIA work provides little to no value for the average Davidson resident.  It is primarily an academic exercise.  Funding this out of the general fund would be a waste of town resources.  (See this previous post on one of the town's HIAs with comments from Davidson College Graduate and former State Senator Dan Clodfelter. Mr Clodfelter is now Charlotte's new mayor).  

Finally, with this budget the Board has begun scaling back direct financial support for local non-profits.  The budgeted amount is being decreased from $50,000 to $35,500 with direct support decreasing for Ada Jenkins.  According to this article in the Huntersville Herald, the recommendation came from Town Manager, Leamon Brice.  The apparent support of this reduction by Commissioner Cashion who also has experience on the finance board of Ada Jenkins should keep the hounds at bay who would usually decry any  decrease to non-profits.  To be clear, the Town still provides a large amount of support to local non-profits in various ways.  However, this decrease should be a model for the Town getting out of direct funding for things that should be handled by private donations - donations like this one to Ada Jenkins from the local Rotary Club.

That's the good news in this year's budget.  Next up "The Bad".

Update: It appears after further discussion, at least some of the direct cash for Ada Jenkins Center is back in the budget.  It's tough to cut no matter how much you try.  The budgeted amount it now back up to $50,000 per the Town's finance office.

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