The budget, which included a $3,092,927 figure for general fund, $1,339,463 for the water fund and $1,317,506 for the town’s sewer fund, passed by a 3-1 vote with Billy Walls Sr. voting against its adoption. The budget also included a 15 percent raise in bimonthly water rates and a five percent increase in bimonthly sewer charges.
Earlier in the meeting, Walls read a letter from Larry and Joyce Davis expressing displeasure over water and sewer rates and the purchase of additional police vehicles, saying the economic conditions mean people are having to do more with less, and government should be doing the same. In the letter, they requested a postponement of the rate increases, hiring of additional police officers and purchase of vehicles.
Mayor Bill Tate asked Walls if he had talked to the citizens about the nature of the situation.
“I’ve talked to several citizens,” Walls said. “They understand but they also understand the way the economy is this is the wrong time to do it.”
“We’re between a rock and a hard place. We have no choice. I wish they had ideas,” responded Tate.
In his report, Greg Yonce noted that Hillsville’s rates are in step with the state average.
“At the last meeting, a comment was made from one of the people that attended that he’s lived in many towns and localities and ours had the highest sewer and water rates he could remember seeing,” Yonce said. “I asked (Council Clerk) Vicky (Yonce) to get me some information and we fall right in the average across the state and actually are below average. We haven’t had a water or sewer increase since 2005. I feel bad that we have to do it. Of course, the added police protection and police cars have nothing to do with water and sewer. That’s a totally different item.”
Councilman Ed Terry noted that there is a need for additional police protection for the new parts of Hillsville, and it’s important that the entire town has the best protection possible.
“The increase in law enforcement coverage due to annexation requires us to have police officers,” Terry said. “We have to have adequate, up to date equipment for all of the town. This is what we budgeted for and I feel good about that.”
Later in the meeting, when presenting the budget for adoption, Town Manager Larry South noted that in his budget message, he mentioned the possibility of enforcement of mandatory sewer connections. He wanted to gauge Council’s feelings toward that issue. Ultimately, a decision on the matter was tabled, as Council wanted to know how many households would be affected by the position.
When it came time for a vote on the budget, only Walls voted against the measure.
“There are two pieces that need to be changed. That’s water and sewer and police cars,” Walls said in explaining his “no” vote.