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


Work underway on fiscal year ‘16 budget in Berlin

(April 9, 2015) The Town of Berlin staff is already several weeks into the fiscal year 2016 budget, with public work sessions set to begin later this month.
Last year’s budget saw a 15 percent spending increase and a total operating budget of $15.1 million.
“We’re getting ready to get down to the part where each department head states their case for what they want,” Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said. “The department heads have been working with [Town Administrator] Laura [Allen] then, I’ll go over it with Laura and make sure I’m okay with it before we present it to the council.”
The Town Council will begin reviewing budget requests during a public work session on April 20. Williams said the first work session would address the general fund.  
“That’s everything but the utilities,” he said.
The following meeting, on May 4, would tackle enterprise funds, including water, wastewater, electric and stormwater.
Town Administrator Laura Allen said the work sessions, “are designed to get input from the council and they give the department directors the opportunity to present their plan for the coming year.
“The budget serves as a financial constraint, but it’s also our action plan for the year,” Allen said.
Allen added the FY 2016 budget would include items from the recent series of strategic planning sessions in Berlin.
Following the May 4 meeting, the town will convene with the Berlin Fire Company on budgetary matters, something that has encountered stumbling blocks in the past.
“The fire department is getting their figures together as fast as they can,” Williams said. “What we did is we told them what we needed and the nature of what we need to have, and not the night before the budget session, but before that.”
Williams is optimistic the session will go smoothly, and the town will avoid potential delays in finalizing the budget.
“I honestly believe things are gradually getting better and better,” he said. “I think the thing is that, as time goes by, we’re trying to learn about what their special concerns are and their special situation, and we’re trying to help them understand the processes and the requirements that we have to go through in the 21st century as a government agency.
“They have not been held to the same standards, only because nobody ever got around to it,” Williams continued. “And yet, we’re extending public funds so we can’t say we have one standard for everything and another set of no standards at all for what I’ll call a paper trail for income and expenses and things like that.”
Williams said the town did not develop standards “out of the sky.”
“It’s stuff we’ve been doing for years and, quite frankly, I think the process is going to become, sooner than later, more transparent with more accountability, not because anybody is thinking they’re doing anything proper with the money,” he said. “It’s just when you’re dealing with a public safety organization that’s funded 95 percent or higher by public funds, in these days and for a long time, agencies like that are held to a higher standard of accountability and transparency.”
The fire company recently took issue with the town’s annexation agreement and development plans of more than 700 townhomes near Stephen Decatur High School, in part due to the poor condition of the nearest substation.
“We obviously want to sit down with them once we know the annexation has gone through the advertising period,” Williams said. “As soon as that’s done we will be requesting an informal meeting with them so they can start telling us what they see as the needs at Station 3, which is a very basic station right now.
“Obviously, we can’t build what they need 20 years from now at the beginning of phase one, but we certainly want to keep up with the growing territory [in Berlin]. It all just means sitting down. It’s a new way of doing things, but nothing bizarre and nothing that hasn’t been done in other places for a long time. It will all work out.”