Altavista Town Council holds public hearing on budget, water rate increase

Altavista Town Council in its May 12 meeting held public hearings concerning the FY2021 Budget, the Capital Improvement Plan (2021-2025), and the proposed water and sewer rate increases. No members of the public made comments, either in person or submitted prior to the meeting.

The budget comes in at just over $10 million. According to the report from Town Manager Waverly Coggsdale and town administrative staff, real estate tax and personal property tax rates remain the same as the current fiscal year (eight cents per $100 and $2 per 100, respectively). Cemetery Fund charges are scheduled for an increase of 15% over the previous year.

The CIP plan earmarks $1,683,510 for FY 2021 for specific projects and $5,265,700 for debt service for that year. Not specified but provided for planning purposes only is an additional $22,056,970 for FY2022-2025. The CIP projects for 2021 include line items such as general fund, grants, highway fund, reserves, enterprise fund, and police forfeiture fund.

The town is planning an increase of 8% in water rates and 4% in sewer rates for 2021, with the changes going into effect on December 1, 2020. By way of example, Coggsdale explained, “A residential customer that uses 5,000 gallons of water per quarter would see a $1.05 increase in water and a $0.55 increase in sewer on their quarterly bill, a total of $1.60 per quarter.”

Since there was no comment from the public during the public hearing, Mayor Mike Mattox stated, “I would encourage the public to comment on this. Call us, email, or come to town hall. We’d love to hear from you.”

In other business, the Council voted to re-examine and re-bid for a project involving water pressure issues for the Melinda and Avondale Drives area. Bids had come in significantly higher than had been expected.

A bid for paving projects for this summer was approved.

The Council approved a request by Vista Fitness to hold outdoor exercise classes at English Park because the governor’s Phase One only allows for outdoor exercise and not the opening of gym buildings.

They also applauded the problem-solving based request from Altavista Police Chief Tommy Merricks to increase pay to officers without increasing cost to the town. Merricks reported that he had four openings, and a fifth one expected in the near future. His proposal was to hire two certified and experienced police officers, as well as two police recruits who would attend police academy beginning this summer, and not fill the fifth vacancy. That salary could be used to raise the officers’ pay.

“A lot of offices in the area lately have been raising pay. It’s not the only reason people leave our force, but it is a factor,” Merricks explained.

His goal was to make the department’s pay more competitive with that of area departments. It is a significant loss of the town’s finances to have to replace—and send to academy—new officer recruits when members of the APD leave for other area law enforcement agencies.

Council also approved the Altavista Band Boosters opening the trade lot again beginning in June.

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