The Board of Aldermen discussed the town of Elon’s executive order for mass gathering limits at their March 9 meeting. The board also discussed Elon University’s financial contribution to the town, which includes $80,000 annually to the fire department with a 2% increase each year to account for inflation.
The town of Elon did not increase mass gathering limits in accordance with Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order on Feb. 24. which eased restrictions on gathering limits both indoors and outdoors and lifted the statewide 10 p.m. curfew. The town of Elon has kept both restrictions in place.
Alderman Monti Allison asked board members to discuss when the town would consider altering its mass gathering limits. He said the town of Elon community members have expressed concerns to him.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Allison said. “We know that each day that we restrict our residents, it’s not fair to them, particularly when the entire state is taking a different approach.”
Town Manager Rich Roedner said his recommendation to the mayor to keep the mass gathering limit the same stems from the makeup of the Elon community, which is not like “other North Carolina towns.”
“I don’t know of any other town in the state of North Carolina that has half its population come from the university,” Roedner said.
For Roedner to change his recommendation to the town, he said he would like to see lower transmission rates, lower numbers of daily cases and higher vaccination rates in the town.
The board agreed to revisit the mass gathering limits in two weeks.
Reviewing proposed university financial contribution
Elon University proposed to contribute $80,000 to the town of Elon fire department starting in 2021 and increase the amount of funding each year by 2% for the next ten years. The university has contributed to the funding of different town amenities such as the fire and police departments for at least the past thirteen years, according to Roedner. This year, the Inn at Elon also generated $118,000 in property taxes to the town.
Alderwoman Emily Sharpe said she commends the university on contributing to the town financially. As a non-profit entity, the university is not required to contribute to the town financially.
Sharpe said she wants to know whether the university has any future plans for buildings with revenue attached, such as a performing arts center, or if the university could contribute to the town in other ways, such as making university greenspaces into parks, or redeveloping unused property into retail, housing or office space.
Alderman Davis Montgomery said the budget proposal is a good starting point for the university and the town to work together, but said the university isn’t obligated to continue its funding.
“I don't care if it's the west side of town versus the east side of town, the University and the full time residents of the town, whatever it happens to be… I think we just want to be careful about one group of people subsidizing the activities of another group of people,” Montgomery said. “As much as possible, you want the dollars to land where the expenses are being made, or being incurred.”
The board asked Roedner to review the financial impact the university has on the town and will discuss the budget proposal further in the future.
Passing the budget amendment
The budget amendment proposed included adding expenditures such as new equipment for public works and a permanent generator for town hall. The town of Elon general fund revenues are approximately $724,000 more than originally budgeted, according to Roedner. The board passed the amendment with the addition of $540 accounting for the state forgiveness of liquor and beer licenses, which will be used to waive the fee for businesses in the coming year.
The amendment will add the following items to the expenditures:
- Public Works - $80,000 for a pickup truck, mower and Gator
- Police Department - $6,060.00 for police car repairs paid by Allstate Insurance and $15,000 for cameras
- Downtown - $12,000 for a speaker system and new laptop
- Fire Department - $25,000 for 10 radios and $52,000 for the remainder of the concrete repairs at Station 8
- Recreation - $1,995 for insurance money received for a backboard replacement at Slade Park and $12,500 to fix drainage issues on the walking trails at Beth Schmidt Park
- Administration - $60,000 to add a permanent generator to Town Hall because the admin and police servers, internet, and the phone system for all departments are located in town hall