Town of Amherst officials are working to bridge about a $380,000 deficit in the town’s fiscal year 2021 budget following negative effects of the coronavirus on the Amherst economy.
Town Manager Sara Carter said during Amherst Town Council’s May 13 meeting the town’s general fund, which is heavily reliant on revenue from the meals and beverage tax and business licenses, is projected to see a 40% drop in those two areas.
“That is a bigger decrease than what most localities are projecting but given what we are seeing … we are comfortable that is not way out of the ballpark,” Carter told council.
With the revised figures, the town is bracing for about a $380,000 deficit and has eliminated a planned 2% pay raise for town employees and is holding off on capital improvement spending, according to Carter. The town’s finance committee is set to meet May 20 and come up with ways to balance with about a $255,000 shortfall, Carter said.
“We still have some decisions to make," Carter said. " ... We’re in a very good position in terms of our reserves."
A proposed budget will come back to council at its June 10 meeting for review and likely adoption. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the town’s proposed general fund was projected as $1.3 million, a 16% increase from the current fiscal year, and contains no recommended changes to tax or utility rates for any town customers.
The town has 19 full-time employees and 10 part-time workers. The planned budget keeps the real estate and personal property tax rates suspended at zero.
Also during the meeting, council voted to sign off on a memorandum of understanding with Amherst County Public Schools on joint use of a recreational use trail at the edge of the Amherst County High School property. The trail is a feature in the town’s new park on Scotts Hill Road.
The document, which recently received approval from the Amherst County School Board, states the town and school division desires recreational purposes to include walking, hiking, jogging and non-motorized biking. Carter said the town’s first park is not planned to draw crowds for athletic events, large gatherings or “high intensity” uses. Town officials agreed to provide regular police patrols in the area of the land the division is granting use of, according to the document. The term of the agreement is for a 25-year period.
Carter said getting more people outside is a way to strive for a healthier, more vibrant community and the park is a way for residents who don’t have children in the school system to interact with the ACHS property.
The park area has water and sewer access for potential public restrooms and two creeks run through it. Carter has said she envisions parking for 20 vehicles or less.
Council also approved a request from IRON Lives, Inc., a local nonprofit, to reschedule an annual 5K race in the town, originally scheduled for April 19 and postponed due to the pandemic, to Sunday, Oct. 4.
Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.