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September 26, 2020

Landis officials provide plan for COVID-19 funds, discuss town’s financial position

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Landis town officials on Monday presented a spending plan coronavirus relief funds and outlined positive outcomes from the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The town of Landis was allotted $91,370 in Coronavirus Relief Funds from the county and has since submitted a plan to the outlining that the funds will be used for disinfection supplies, payroll expenses and emergency paid sick leave.

Diane Seaford, the town’s finance officer, said Monday during the Board of Aldermen meeting that $79,842 of the funding will be used for expenses related to the disinfection of public areas and other facilities, including the walk-up window at Town Hall; plexiglass/glass barriers at utility transaction windows; touchless hand sanitizer dispensers throughout town facilities; fan filtration units in public areas; audio and camera equipment; and touchless sinks at the town park and pool.

Additionally, $8,668 will be used for payroll expenses incurred due to COVID-19 payment plans, along with $2,859 for emergency paid sick leave for employees who were required to quarantine due to COVID-19.

The plan can be amended as needed to ensure all office time related to the pandemic and emergency paid sick leave are covered.

Seaford also provided a list of “positive outcomes” resulting from the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, which ended June 30. Those outcomes achieved over the past year include reduced debt, reconciled accounts and new accounts for better financial tracking, eliminated late fee payments for debts, a consistent billing schedule for utilities, in-house accounting, update codes in the Utility Billing System and debt set-off for delinquent collections.

General fund revenues ended the year at 89% of the budget, while expenditures were at 85%. The town added $189,940 to the fund balance, which is partially a savings account, rather than the $330,000 the town had hoped to add. Additionally, the town paid off its fire truck balloon cost of $245,592.

In the water fund, revenues ended at 110% of the budget, while expenses were at 94%. That amounts to a $181,168 increase in retained earnings and an operating income of $300,568. Revenues outperformed expectations because of new customers and the expiration of rate reductions for some industrial customers, Seaford said.

The storm water fund finished the 2019-20 fiscal year with an increased fund balance of $42,715.

Additionally, revenues in the sewer fund ended the year at 102% while expenses came in at 91% of the budget. However, a depreciation adjustment drove down the retained earnings, leaving a cash balance of $139,263. Since the sewer fund owes the water fund $478,848, “this fund is not in good financial position,” Seaford said.

“This debt was incurred several administrations ago and reported in a creative way in the audit,” Seaford said. “We will need to develop a repayment plan for this debt. I will be bringing additional discussions to you over the next couple of months concerning how to successfully move forward with this fund.”

The electric fund ended its revenues at 102% of the budget while expenses were at 93%. The retained earnings increased by $680,310, and the town paid off its AMI meter debt of $219,310. Additionally, the town paid off leases for a small bucket truck and a chipper truck, and the electric fund received a rebate of $709,801. A total of $650,000 of that rebate was transferred to the general fund.

“Overall the town’s financial position is much stronger at the beginning of fiscal year 2020-21,” Seaford said, adding that the town was able to develop a clearer understanding of the financial impact of depreciation to financial statements, which “will yield significant benefits in upcoming budgets.”

The 2020-21 fiscal year budget totals $12.7 million, with general fund revenues at $3.88 million, which is down 16.5% due to COVID-19 and the transfer to the electric fund.

Also at the meeting:

• The board accepted a resolution of intent to amend the code of ordinances for the town of Landis based on complaints received from local residents regarding speeding and traffic on South Zion Street in the area of the curve just north of West Third Street. One suggestion is to post stop signs on South Zion at the intersection of West Third Street in both directions. Adopting the resolution of intent allows a public hearing for citizens during the town’s Oct. 5 meeting.

Another request in that area comes from citizens on North Zion Street who have indicated there were signs prohibiting vehicles with greater than two axles from traveling on that street. Barefoot said in his memo to board members, “Whether that’s so or not, there is no authorization in the code of ordinances for such postings.” Adopting this resolution also allows for a public hearing, and if approved, vehicles of such size would be barred from traveling on North Zion Street between West Blum and West Limit streets.

• Town aldermen authorized for an offer of $40,000 from John D. Eckard for a 1.7-acre, residential lot on Coldwater Street to be advertised for 10 days to allow for any competing offers. The property is located on the south side of the street and within the East Landis water district, and is a former D.C. Linn property donated to the town in 2013. The appraised value is $66,000.

A previous offer of $30,000 for the property was rejected. Eckard said he plans to create rental property for himself and his family close to their home. The offer will be advertised for 10 days before the bid from Eckard is accepted, unless an upset bid of at least 10% more than the current offer is proposed within those 10 days.

• Town aldermen considered the purchase of a lot located at the corner of South Valley Street and West Ryder Avenue. However, interim town manager Leonard Barefoot suggested board members take a look at the site and decide whether they want to sell it for residential use, keep it and maintain it as is or consider some non-residential use for the property. He expressed concerns with the property due to storm drainage problems. No offer is being proposed currently.

• Amber Levi was formally promoted to the position of town clerk.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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