Oak Ridge Town Manager Bill Bruce has presented his recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year of 2020-2021.

The new budget calls for keeping the tax rate steady for Oak Ridge property owners, a dip into the town’s savings account – called a “fund balance” – to pay for some projects, and the cancellation or delay of other planned expenditures.

Now the Oak Ridge Town Council will have to decide in what ways, if any, it will modify the plan before approving a final budget next month.

Bruce noted the big financial challenges facing the town due to the coronavirus pandemic. All local governments in North Carolina are also up against the disease that kills sales tax revenue and other revenue in addition to its human toll.

Bruce made that clear from the start of his budget message to the council and the town’s 7,000 or so residents that 2020 is very different from previous times.

“The Town of Oak Ridge, as well as our nation and the world, will face unprecedented challenges in the next year, as the economy rebounds and business resumes after a long period of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bruce stated. “While we are bracing for a reduction in revenue, the town maintains a strong fund balance that affords us the ability to continue providing responsive and effective citizen service and to provide the amenities residents demand and expect. Some discretionary capital projects, however, have been deferred to future years. Likewise, operating expenses have been thoroughly reviewed and some planned increases have been eliminated.”

The 2020-2021 recommended budget proposes no change to the town’s property tax rate of 8 cents per $100 of assessed property value, and, despite the big challenges facing the town in the current economy, Bruce’s budget calls for making $944,000 of capital improvements during fiscal 2020-2021, which begins on Wednesday, July 1.

Even given expected revenue drops caused by the coronavirus, the town’s leaders expect revenues to exceed estimated operating expenses by over $300,000.

The first of two public hearings will be held at the Town Council meeting on June 4, with another meeting to follow in June.