The Morningside Town Council approved its fiscal 2013 budget Tuesday night, keeping spending level despite falling tax revenues, thanks in part to revenues from speed cameras in town.
Real estate tax revenue estimates dropped from about $813,000 in the current fiscal year to $566,000 for fiscal 2013 after property values dropped during last October’s property reassessment, said Mayor Karen Rooker.
But an estimated $642,000 in funding from the town’s speed camera allowed an increase of spending from $1.6 million to $1.7 million in 2012. The council chose to keep the real estate tax rate at 74 cents per $100 of assessed real-estate value and $2 per $100 of assessed personal property value.
Rooker said despite the slight increase in spending, the drop in tax revenue forced the town to temporarily cut back on some planned capital projects, such as installing sidewalks on Lou Lane and Pickett Drive.
“We did have to cut some stuff down,” Rooker said. “We had a lot of wants, but we put those away on the back burner for now.”
The town was able to effectively cut some spending by eliminating capital projects already paid for in the current fiscal year, like more than $220,000 in police vehicle purchases.
Despite the apparent setback, council members said residents may not have to wait a full year to see such improvements. Since the town ran on a more than $600,000 surplus this year, more funds will become available after the town’s annual audit in October.
Councilwoman Regina Foster said the sidewalk installations could move forward once the surplus funds re-enter the budget.
“I have been assured by my fellow council members that the budget will be amended and will allow for $225,000 to $250,000 for the sidewalk project on Lou Lane and Pickett Drive,” Foster said. “It’s been a long time coming [for the project].”
But Rooker warned that while speed camera revenue, which can only be spent on public safety budget items, can be extremely helpful during budget crunches, it is not as reliable an income source as taxes and fees.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Rooker said. “But it’s not guaranteed money. You can’t count on it, since it could go way down [if people stop speeding].”