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Pamelia to approve lean budget Nov. 4

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Pamelia’s Town Council is set to approve its 2014 budget Nov. 4 with a total spending plan of $1,076,571, up slightly from this year’s $1,048,394.

The town, which does not collect property taxes, relies heavily on Jefferson County sales tax revenue, which is expected to drop by 3 percent, from $594,241 this year to $573,850. The town will offset that decrease with an increase in Jefferson County mortgage tax, which is expected to rise from $60,000 this year to $90,000. The town also has numerous other revenue sources, including state highway funding and justice court fees.

The most notable change included in the budget is the termination of the town’s code enforcement position, now held by Walter H. VanTassel. The town plans to have Jefferson County Code Enforcement take over building inspections Jan. 1, which it is required to do free of expense. Pamelia previously had opted out of that intermunicipal agreement to conduct inspections independently.

Mr. VanTassel has served 15 years as code enforcement and zoning officer and was paid $17,844 this year. The town still has budgeted $9,100 to hire a zoning officer in January, but the board has not yet decided how it will fill that position.

Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway refused to answer questions about the budget when called Thursday. He previously said the decision for Jefferson County to take over code enforcement responsibilities was made to reduce expenses. He maintained the move was not made to remove Mr. VanTassel from the position, although several town officials contended otherwise.

The four Town Council members will receive a 2 percent raise for the second year in a row, according to the budget. They will each be paid $2,153, up from this year’s $2,111.

Mr. Longway has again declined to accept a salary, which he has done as a matter of principle since his term started in 2004.

Meanwhile, the town will save money in other areas. It has enacted a plan to reduce expenses over the past four years that includes a water district transfer. In 2010, the town paid off $466,000 left on a 30-year loan issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its Water District 4 project. Since then, capital costs that district’s water users pay every year, including 4.75 percent interest on the loan, have flowed directly into the town’s general fund.

The town has collected more than $300,000 in the past four years by doing so, and its 2014 budget includes $48,000 in debt retirement from the district that will be channeled to the town.

The town’s annual retirement expense paid for four employees will drop from $14,572 this year to $13,400, because of a slight decrease in state retirement contributions. Health insurance costs for three employees will drop from $14,572 this year to $13,400 under the plan.

The town starts its fiscal year Jan. 1.

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