Revenue loss leads to cuts

The town of Catawba plans to cut its budget by 8.8 percent during the next fiscal year in order to match the town’s decline in overall revenue.
The cut will eliminate about $80,000 from the town’s total budget, said Catawba Town Manager Brian M. Barnett on Wednesday.
The town will keep its current tax rate of 48 cents per $100 of valuation, Barnett said.
“Our biggest issue is a decline in overall revenue to the town,” Barnett said. “Now, we have to adjust on our end what we anticipate coming in on revenue.”
One of the largest reasons for Catawba’s revenue struggles last year revolved around two uncompleted housing developments.
Barnett said the town hoped in 2010 that Catawba Station and River Oaks housing developments would bring much-needed revenue to Catawba. Yet as the housing market continued to decline, both projects were put on hold. This caused the town’s revenue to quickly decline.
“They are both really nice places to live, but it was just an issue of bad timing,” Barnett said.
Though the River Oaks project will be permanently stopped, Barnett said construction to Catawba Station will resume later this year.
In order to compensate for lost revenue, the town plans to cut budgets of nearly every town department — including a 23.64 percent cut to the Catawba Police Department.
The large cut to the police department stems from the retirement of one officer — a position that Barnett said will not be filled.
“They are not going to fill that position because they haven’t had the need for more officers yet,” Barnett said.
The town of Catawba currently employs about eight police officers.
As for other town expenditures, the parks and recreation department will see about 14 percent of its budget reduced while public works and the fire department will be cut by less than 6 percent combined.
But the town doesn’t plan on making up revenue with only budget cuts. It strives to employ several revenue-increasing strategies throughout the year, such as collecting delinquent taxes from the town, Barnett said.
The proposed town budget is not final, and community members can provide input on the issue at a public hearing scheduled for June 6 at Catawba Town Hall at 7 p.m.
After the hearing, town council can entertain a motion to vote on the budget.
Catawba Mayor Vance Readling said the town council is still in the process of finalizing its budget. Readling is part of the council that will make a final vote on the budget in June.
"We're having another meeting May 24 to try and iron everything out for our June meeting," Readling said. Readling added that the meeting was closed to the public.
Even if the proposed budget is passed, Barnett wants community members to know it’s just a plan.
“It’s difficult to sit here in May and know what you’re going to need in April,” Barnett said. “A lot of times, you write your budget in pencil, because you don’t know what’s going to happen later in April.”