Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin unveils FY ‘16 budget draft

(April 23, 2015) Berlin’s fiscal year 2016 outlook largely maintains the status quo, according to a first look at the projected budget during a public meeting on Monday night, when the mayor, town council and department to discuss the planned $5.6 million budget, up 4 percent over the previous year.
“One of the things were attempting to do in this budget … is we’re going to budget for success,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “These are all things that the public said were very important to them in the strategic planning sessions, and fortunately they were all more than on our radar screen.”
A prior year surplus of $484,500 was divided into capital expenditures, including $26,000 for a new Town Hall vehicle and $66,000 for a pair of new police vehicles, as well as $30,000 for replacement finance and billing software and $30,000 for a new HVAC system in the Welcome Center.
And additional $170,500 went to sidewalk and street repairs on Baker Street, Bryan Avenue, Cedar Avenue, Branch Street West, Grace Street, Flower Street, Maple Avenue and Tingle Road.
Finance Director Natalie Saleh said general fund operating revenues did not have “major changes or major additions,” with most line items mirroring the previous budget.
Residential impact fees projected huge increase of $288,000 thanks to planned expansion on Seahawk Road, phase one of which is expected to be finished in 2016, adding 144 townhomes to the area.  
Also in the general fund, corporation tax revenues estimated a $20,000 jump, which Saleh attributed to increased activity in the town, and highway user revenue showed an increase of $17,200.
Slot revenues look to drop 1 percent, totaling $3,000 less than the $233,000 the town received during the prior year. Salah said the working budget also allowed for a conservative $20,000 hike in state income tax revenue.
In total, the general fund showed a projected 16 percent net increase, totaling $5,485,371 after a $200,000 stormwater contribution.
Williams said it was the largest single-year increase “in several years.”
The administration budget showed a 9 percent rise over the prior year, because of projected increases in health insurance costs and more funds reserved for special appropriations, capital outlay and contingency.
Town Administrator Laura Allen said the $15,000 special appropriations hike contains room for potential town council grants to nonprofit groups, including Atlantic General Hospital, Diakonia, the Worcester County Development Center and the Cricket Center.
The $80,000 projected increase in capital outlay, Allen said, included $30,000 for the feasibility study of the former Tyson plant, as well as $25,000 for the development of architectural design standards to assist the Berlin Planning Commission.
The economic development budget showed the largest percentage increase of any department, up 45 percent due to a significant jump in employee health insurance, as well as a $50,000 Department of House and Community Development façade grant for the new art gallery on South Main Street.
Finance was nearly flat, with an estimated 2 percent increase. The customer accounts and parks and recreation budgets were unchanged, police rose just 1 percent, and streets increased 4 percent.
The public works budget looks to drop 31 percent, thanks to an $80,000 decrease in equipment costs, while the sanitation budget showed a 25 increase due to a request for a new employee.
“We are going to be the big bad people this year and ask for one new employee,” Water Resources/Public Works Director Jane Kreiter said “We struggle in public works. There’s six individuals [and] people aren’t able to take their vacations because there’s just so few people. We have more and more events, more and more snow storms, more issues that public works has been involved with. They are overstretched.”
Kreiter said she hoped to cover the cost of the new employee by capitalizing on a situation in billing for commercial trash pickup.
“Our quarterly rates are about what commercial, private companies charge for one month,” Kreiter said, adding rates would be restructured to increase gradually.
Williams, as well as several councilmembers, praised the combined efforts of public works and water resources following recent snowstorms, and admitted the employees were overtaxed.
“With our [vacation day] system, you either use it or lose it,” Kreiter said. “They’re unable to take those vacations that they’ve earned, but also sorely need … I think that additional person will certainly help ease the burden on all of us.”
The buildings and grounds budget, overseen by Human Resources Director Jeffery Fleetwood, showed a projected 20 percent increase. Fleetwood said the big-ticket item was $45,000 for contracted cleaning services that would cover buildings including the Welcome Center, town hall, the planning building and public restrooms.
Planning estimated a 7 percent increase due largely to a 122 percent estimated jump in contracted services tied to building permit inspections, according to Planning Director Dave Engelhart.
After the department heads had their say, Williams asked Saleh to explore bond options for several additional capital projects, including the potential $2.5 million to purchase the former Tyson plant, $1 million for a new police station at the corner of Route 113 and Bay Street and $500,000 for expanded parking accessible to downtown Berlin.
“They would have to be, basically, through debt service like any other capital improvement,” Williams said following the meeting. “It’s not in what the department heads recommended, but that’s not their job. These are decisions now that we’ve informed the finance director we’d like to seriously consider, then she can start exploring what our options are.”
Williams said the town could spend an additional $75,000, spread out over three years, in order to match a grant for construction of the new library.
The mayor and council will meet on May 4 to go over the utilities portion of the budget, followed by a budget work session on May 18.
Williams said the town hopes to formally introduce the budget during a public meeting on May 26, with an anticipated vote on June 8.