Funding for the Downtown Sylva Association has caused a rift in the Sylva town board for the fifth year running.
Town leaders last week approved a $2.3 million budget for the coming fiscal year by a vote of 3 to 2. Board members Ray Lewis and Danny Allen cast their votes against the budget in protest.
Lewis said two appropriations particularly irked him: a $12,000 allocation to the Downtown Sylva Association and a $2,500 contribution to the Jackson County Economic Development Commission.
“Ever since I’ve been on the board I’ve voted for a budget, but I just decided this time I wouldn’t do it,” Lewis said.
Allen would not comment on his vote, but he has previously been a critic of the town’s funding for the Downtown Sylva Association.
Town Commissioner Sarah Graham is stepping down from the board in a couple of weeks because she is moving outside the town limits, making her ineligible to serve as an elected town leader. An ardent supporter of DSA, Graham said she wanted to see the budget process through before stepping down.
Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody would have voted in the case of a tie, however, and he has always supported town funding for DSA, a point he drove home following a video presentation shown during last week’s meeting extolling the virtues of the North Carolina Main Street Program.
“That just highlights some of the benefits we do get from the Main Street program,” Moody said, pointing out the town was currently eligible for a $250,000 matching grant through the state and acknowledging Waynesville’s receipt of $300,000 through the Main Street Solutions program.
The funding for the two business development groups was a small portion of the overall budget this year. Sylva will spend nearly $1 million on its police department, $300,000 on streets and another $250,000 on administration.
Overall, the budget reflects a $40,000 decrease from last year, stemming from a decline in local sales tax.