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Thurmont begins forming new budget

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(5/1)  The Thurmont Town Commissioners have started work fine-tuning the new town budget that will begin on July 1.

“It’s going to be tight this year and people are going to struggle and we need to be prudent,” Mayor Martin Burns said during a recent town meeting.

It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by other commissioners in other meetings. Much of the commissioners’ initial discussion about the budget centered on the town’s electric utility.

Given the slow down in the economy and rising electric rates, Burns said, “The major problem that’s going to happen with the town that Rick and Bill told me about is cash flow.”

This means that residents will still pay their bills but they will be a lot slower about doing it, which could mean less money in the bank to pay the town’s bills.

Chief Administrative Officer Bill Blakeslee said that the town has started sending out “lots” of disconnection notices but “only when people have not made any attempt to pay it [their bill] off.”

Commissioner Ron Terpko asked if the town should consider building a bad debt buffer into the budget. “At some point, I think we’re going to hit where the money just isn’t coming,” he said.

Chief Financial Officer Rick May even allowed that if the situation becomes critical the town might have to look at reducing personnel.

While those are worst-case scenarios, the commissioners are looking at a lean budget. Blakeslee noted that the electric utility capital budget request will be decreased to reduce the amount of inventory that the town carries in that department.

The town is looking to replace the underground wiring in the Catoctin Heights area because of frequent breakdowns.

“This is obviously the most important think we do in the next few months,” Burns said.

The commissioners will be debating the necessity of various items and trimming the budget over the next few months.

A hearing on whether the constant-yield tax rate should be adopted will be held on May 26. Burns has said in the past he believes the town won’t have to increase its property tax rate this year, but he is hesitant to say the rate can be reduced to whatever the constant-yield rate will be.

The public hearing and adoption of the budget will be on June 9.

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