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Pandemic effects shape austere budget

By Bob Arnold

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesson is projecting a five percent decline in revenues and a four percent decrease in its expenditures for the 2020-2021 fiscal year from its 2019-2020 budgeted revenues and expenses.

With forecasted revenues of $1,133,757 and expenditures of 1,113,260 for the coming year, the town will continue to run a projected budget surplus of $20,496 -- down $14,801 or 42 percent.

"It's an austere budget for tough times, but it entails no new taxes," Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw said.

The town's budget encompasses revenues that pay for general government expenses, the police and street departments, Old School Community Center and public library; and revenues and expenses for the fire and water/sewer departments and water meters.

In the budget for the coming year, Old School rentals showed the sharpest percentage forecasted decline from $10,000 to $1,000 (90 percent) and water/sewer revenue showed the largest dollar drop from $538,600 to $506,600 (a six percent slide) on projected declines from sewer charges to customers ($17,000 from $187,000) and metered water sales ($5,000 to $80,000). Other revenue dips included the motor vehicle tax levy (down $5,000 to $50,000), sales tax (down $5,000 to $155,000), fines and forfeitures (down $10,000 to $35,000).

On the expenditures side of the budget, the street department enjoyed a $4,500 increase to $83,350 and fire department expenses were projected to remain the same as the previous fiscal year at $24,900 on stable revenues of $31,532. While general government expenditures showed a new $10,000 budget item for payment on an $80,000 bond for emergency cash, budgeted expenses for travel were slashed to $2,500 from $15,000. Budgeted expenses for the Old School Community Center and public library were cut from $38,500 to $24,700 and from $17,460 to $12,460 respectively. The police department sustained a small $2,500 budget cut to $279,000. Budgeted water/sewer department expenses were trimmed by $32,000 in accordance with an estimated six percent revenue decline.

"The budget largely reflects the impact of the pandemic," Mayor Shaw pointed out. Reduced water/sewer usage by Co-Lin and Wesson Attendance Center due to closures and curtailed operations have had a major effect on town revenues. Sales tax revenues have just naturally decreased with declining levels of business at merchants and restaurants. The town also borrowed $80,000 through a bond issue that created a new debt obligation.

"It could have been worse, but it still made a difference," Shaw concluded.


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