Taxes on agenda but not discussed

Town of Highland Lake

The Highland Lake Town Council met for its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 1. Greg Posey was sworn in as the newest member after having been unanimously selected by the council to replace Sharon Duke who resigned earlier this year. Posey assumes Place 2 for the remainder of Duke’s term before starting his own full term in Nov., since he ran unopposed for the seat in the Aug. 25 municipal election.

The council had a long agenda to work through, one item of which was “Ad Valorem Tax and others,” apparently referencing the controversial sales tax that was discussed in the spring. The matter of taxes of any kind did not come up in the meeting, and an explanation as to why it was skipped was not given.

Mayor Donna Hanby and other town officials have said in the past that the town must find a way to raise revenue in order to adequately fund the police department and maintain roads. The officials have said taxes have become acutely necessary after the county decided it would no longer maintain the roads within the town limits.

The council went over the FY2021 budget in the work session that preceded the council meeting. One item in the budget was a $3,000 salary for the mayor. Currently, the mayor serves with no salary. That item was removed, however, when town attorney Alex Smith explained that a mayor and/ or council can only modify elected officials’ salaries every four years, and it must be done six months prior to the election. Then it only takes effect upon the beginning of the new term.

The council passed the budget without the mayor’s salary at the council meeting. The highlight of the budget is the projected revenue of $233,000 for the coming year, which is an increase of $32,000 over last year. In actuality, the larger number is more reflective of actual revenues for the last year, mostly due to more money received in ad valorem and personal property taxes, as well as lake use fees than had been predicted. That windfall, however, and quite a bit more, was spent in the last year on dredging parts of the lake. That expense cost the town an unanticipated $68,743.

The council did pass two ordinances: one concerning the control of dogs within the town limits and another dealing with what is considered a public nuisance. The latter deals with “certain vehicles, weeds, or other rubbish which is unsightly.” Both are lengthy and will soon be posted on the town’s website at www.townofhighlandlake.com/ordinances. A third ordinance regarding changes in “lake use fees” was tabled. Most of the other matters on the agenda dealt with routine matters of maintenance around the lake and at the park.

Police Chief Scott Kon asked the council to consider giving Officer “Buck” Buchanan a $150 bonus for his voluntary work on the police department’s boat. Kon said the work would have cost much more if sent out. The council agreed to the bonus and commended Buchanan.

The mayor gave the financial report listing the balances in the various accounts:

• Checking account: $13,005

• Special projects: $50,105

• Criminal division: $8,224

• Escrow account: $771

• Certificate of deposits: $220,359

• Total of multiple road accounts: $96,148

The council’s regular monthly meeting is the first Tuesday of each month at The Anchor at 7 p.m. The council is currently composed of Mayor Hanby, councilors Chase Moore, Greg Posey, Carl Randall, Ramzi Malek, and Sid Nelson. All were present.