Town’s trimmed budget shows drop in department expenses, higher tax revenue

by Geoff Fox & Kate Shunney

Hancock’s 2020 fiscal year budget predicts a jump in property tax collection and a sizeable decline in department expenses.

Town Manager Joe Gilbert released details about the budget’s specifics last week.

The town has a total expense budget of $2,023,045. Of that, $1,444,950 is tied to the general fund, with the rest connected to specific town departments or functions.

This budget is $197,924 smaller than last year’s estimates, but town officials predict the general fund will be $265,000 more than last year.

Half of the proposed expenses in the general fund — $770,000 — are for salaries and benefits for 14 town employees. The roster of employees includes five full- and part-time police officers, three town office employees, two Public Works employees, three wastewater employees, and an inmate guard.

Town Manager Joe Gilbert said the salary line does not include pay for the mayor or town council members, which adds up to $19,000.

The cost of salaries for police and wastewater department employees are shared in part by those departments.

Gilbert said there are funds that borrow from each other within the budget to pay a portion of the salaries and benefits.

“It’s not all just straight into salaries and wages and then out to each employee,” Gilbert said.

The remaining half of general fund expenditures are allocated to utilities ($125,000), administrative operations ($110,000), insurance ($26,200), public safety ($56,450), Public Works ($97,650), parks and recreations/ community service ($56,650), and capitol outlays ($184,000).

Proprietary funds account for $578,000 of the total expense budget. Those include the Water Department ($259,000) Wastewater Department ($191,975) and sanitation ($127,120).

This is $283,092 lower than department budgets last year – a 33%

decrease for the current fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2019 budget, former Town Manager David Smith had budgeted $861,092 for these town departments.

Tax, lease revenue up

Town officials expect to take in $510,000 from real property tax in the coming fiscal year. That figure is calculated from a base assessed value for all property within the town limits, calculated at $9,230,361.

Not included in that base value are church properties, public buildings, and non-taxable entities.

Anticipated tax collections are anticipated to be $30,039 higher than last year collections, estimated at $479,961.

Town officials expect a slightly higher income from the hotel/motel tax. They have budgeted $24,000 for the coming fiscal year, up from $21,500 in the 2019 budget. The town also expects to take in $42,500 i

n cellular phone tower leases in miscellanies revenue – the same as last year.

Another source of revenue for the town is interest from certificates

of deposit. Gilbert anticipates the town’s CDs will earn $25,000 in interest in the coming fiscal year.

Future finance, grant tracking

In future budgets, Gilbert said he intends to go to a line item budget and get a more robust accounting budgeting software.

Gilbert said he is applying for a significant number of grants and   each

one requires tracking, fiscal management, and reports back to the funding agency.

That means grant management is going to be a challenge.

Gilbert said financing a new wastewater facility will be complex, with multiple funding sources.

Funding would possibly be coming from the Maryland Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of the Environment, Rural Maryland Council, and other

agencies.

Gilbert said each one has its own paperwork requirements.

“That’s just one project,” Gilbert said. “We may have five or six funding sources for one project.”

On top of that, there are other projects and grants Gilbert is looking at to get funded and paperwork.

“I want all of this stuff done for the town and I want it for free,” he said.

Gilbert said he may be looking to hire someone to oversee grant management for the town in the future.

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