06/25/17 — Fremont town board sees budget increase

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Fremont town board sees budget increase

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on June 25, 2017 1:45 AM

The Fremont Board of Aldermen approved its budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year at its meeting Tuesday evening, and revisited the town's recently passed trash can ordinance.

The $851,602 budget is an increase of around $11,000 from last year, and comes as the town has steadily increased its cash flow over the last few years. The town reported an ending fund balance growth of $300,000 this fiscal year compared to the previous one, which town Finance Officer Shameshia Fennell said was due to a variety of improvements the town has made in recent years.

One of those improvements took the form of sewer repairs. Leaks in the town's aged sewer system had allowed large amounts of groundwater to enter the system, which resulted in drastically inflated bills when the water was sent for processing in Goldsboro. Finding and patching those leaks has gone a long way toward cutting down unnecessary billing, Ms. Fennell said.

On the administrative side, town staff have focused on making sure bills are being collected properly and the town is receiving all of the money it is owed. One tactic the town has used is debt setoff, a process by which the town can collect past debts owed by people who have since moved away from Fremont.

Town Administrator Barbara Aycock said the town has brought in nearly $20,000 from debt setoff since the program began.

Grants have further bolstered Fremont's ability to save money. Ms. Aycock has primarily pursued 100 percent grants - which do not include loan money the town repay - when seeking funding for town projects. After several years of being denied those grants, that perseverance paid off earlier this year, when the town received a $1.2 million Connect N.C. grant to further renovate its sewer system.

All of this together means that Fremont will likely be able to make more headway in filling out its fund balance, which is where its surplus money must go by law. In 2016 the town's general fund came out in the positive for the first time in six years, having been negative by over $200,000 in 2012.

In other business, the board made a slight alteration to the trash can ordinance it passed in January. The ordinance called for people who do not pull their trash cans back from the road to receive two written warnings per month before being fined $25 for each further infraction.

Due to the amount of increased labor and costs created by the process, however, the board voted to alter the ordinance to allow for two citations in an entire calendar year.