Town discusses way to pay for needed projects

STALLINGS – Leaders in Stallings will pull money from the town’s general fund to pay for almost $1.3 million in various projects during the coming fiscal year. It’s a process some in town say needs to stop, and the creation of a capital investment fund could accomplish that.

Work at the intersection of Potter and Pleasant Plains roads (above) is one of the projects leaders in Stallings will pay for with a portion of the town’s fund balance.

Work at the intersection of Potter and Pleasant Plains roads (above) is one of the projects leaders in Stallings will pay for with a portion of the town’s fund balance.

Currently, the town plans to pay for infrastructure projects such as improvements to the Potter and Pleasant Plains roads intersection out of the fund balance – a type of rainy-day savings account towns create for emergency spending. Mayor Lynda Paxton and some others on council want to see Stallings move away from that process.

“The mayor is the one who is leading the charge, and I think her concern is we wouldn’t be formally allocating those funds we have listed in the capital improvement plan,” town manager Brian Matthews said.  “What a capital reserve fund does is protects those funds from being spent on operational needs.”

Nearby Indian Trail recently created a capital reserve fund – with the help of a 4-cent tax increase. What Stallings is considering could be similar.

According to Matthews, Paxton has pushed for the creation of a capital reserve fund for many years. The discussion is now on the table because, until recently, there was no formal investment plan presented to the council to be adopted.  But Stallings could adopt the five-year capital improvement plan next week, meaning the town needs to figure out how to pay for those projects.

If created, the reserve fund would not affect any projects proposed for this next fiscal year. Those projects include the completion of Stallings Park, the Pleasant Plains and Potter roads streetscape improvements, two sidewalk projects, possible improvements to Blair Mill Park and any potential street resurfacing projects.

Improvements to the intersection of Pleasant Plains and Potter roads is the most extensive capital project on the list for the coming year. It will total around $2 million, which will include money from the town’s fund balance.

Council is currently working to create a capital project ordinance to help reserve money for the project, something Matthews said has a lot of council members concerned about also creating the capital reserve fund at this time.

“At the last meeting (council) had some concerns about the capital project ordinance that we are adopting,” Matthews said. “… When you put the money in a capital reserve fund, it’s not available to use anymore.”

With money tied up in the ordinance for the intersection improvements and other funds placed in the capital reserve fund, some council members are concerned too much of the town’s resources would be tied up in capital projects if an emergency arose, according to Matthews.

“If we commit even more money, then that means our ability to absorb any ups and downs is limited,” Matthews said.

Paxton disagrees, and thinks the town shouldn’t use money from the general fund to cover expenses related to capital projects.

Currently the budget includes about $5.8 million for regular town expenditures, $1,171,000 for the intersection improvements and $68,200 for the completion of Stallings Park.  The budget for fiscal year 2012-13 was $5.3 million.  Council is not proposing any tax or fee increases for the coming year to make up the difference.

In addition to discussing and possibly adopting the CIP and budget for fiscal year 2013-14, council members also could discuss the creation of a capital reserve fund during their next meeting.  The meeting will take place Monday, June 24, at 7 p.m. at the Stallings Town Hall, 315 Stallings Road.

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