Millville approves unfamiliarly large budget

Expenses and revenues generated through development looming in the town of Millville more than quadrupled the town’s budget in one year. After approving some $65,000 in the 2006 fiscal-year budget last year, town council voted unanimously on April 11 to pass a 2007 fiscal-year budget that balances at $273,375 and will take effect on May 1.

The financial plan approved on April 11 was the product of more than three months of unfamiliar budgetary planning for a town that didn’t — before last week — even have any full-time employees.

“We spent a good bit of time trying to put together a sensible budget,” said Town Mayor Gary Willey, “It looks pretty good.”

The town’s biggest expense on the newly-approved budget is a direct result of booming development. In just more than three months, according to the mayor, the town has spent about $32,000 for URS planning consultants to oversee the development.

The originally-proposed plan only marked $25,000 for professional services — the line item funding URS engineers and planners — but town officials upped that to $100,000 before the budget’s passage.

A change in the town’s subdivision application ordinance, allowing the town to collect 20 percent of the application fee up front, will help the immediate outside funding of the URS officials. The overall expected boost in that line item, though, helped balance the rising revenues on the other side of the plan.

Millville town officials — who charge a $450 application fee per lot, site or unit on a subdivision containing more than 11 — expect to generate just more than $158,000 on application fees in the coming year.

Millville by the Sea developers alone will at least pay application fees on 195 units because of the final site plan approval of Phase I of the Master Planned Community. Application fees from Phase I should generate more than $87,000 in application revenues. Phase IIA, another similarly-sized part of the master plan, could generate just as much (if not more) in the coming year if Millville group officials receive expected final approval by this fall.

Money generated from the Cedar Cove, Creekside and Dove Landing developments — which, combined, should add about an additional 300 homes to the town — should make the application fee budgeted number look like a poorly-estimated guess. But — as Willey pointed out on Tuesday – that is the right side of the guesstimate on which to end up.

“We are being kind of modest on this but it is a balanced budget,” Willey said. “The town is in good shape. There’s a lot going on that will generate revenue for the town.”

Along with the rising revenue, the town picked up an extra — albeit much-needed, by all accounts — expense. At an April 6 workshop, the town agreed to hire its first full-time town clerk to relieve Town Manager Linda Collins and current Town Clerk Sue Knox, who both work part-time.

“It’s going to help a lot,” Collins said. “I need someone there every day.”

Deborah Botchie will act as the town hall receptionist and will process mail, prepare public notices, distribute property taxes and business licenses among other forms, organize town elections, attend meetings and assist the current staff. Knox will remain on staff to perform most of the financial duties for the town.

With the Botchie hire, town officials added more than $35,000 to the originally-proposed budget. Even with that, though — as was noted at Tuesday’s meeting — town officials met the challenge Collins set forth on April 6 at the town’s final budgetary workshop.

“We have to have a balanced budget,” she told the committee, which comprises town officials. “Revenues have to equal expenditures. That’s the first thing I noticed from last year’s budget,” she added. “It wasn’t like that.”

Budget Notes

• According to their 2006-07 budgetary plan, Millville officials expect to generate $660,000 in transfer tax revenues in the coming fiscal year. Town officials will expect to deposit 10 percent of those monies into a police fund, preparing for the day the town wants to — or, more likely, is able to – open a police department. There is currently about $33,000 in that fund.

• Because of impending Delmarva Power electric rate increases, Millville budgeted $13,000 for electric costs in 2006-07, a $5,800 increase from last year.

• Town Manager Linda Collins announced at the April 6 budget workshop that she wanted to print a bi-yearly newsletter to keep town residents up to date on the town’s inner-workings. With the approved budget, council allocated almost $900 for postage for the newsletter.