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Kannapolis City Council gives budget go-ahead; final vote on June 23

By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó Debate over tax cuts and pay increases for city workers effectively ended Wednesday when the City Council gave the go-ahead to prepare the 2008-2009 budget as recommended.
Council members voted 5-to-1 to direct City Manager Mike Legg to prepare the recommended budget ordinance for a vote at the June 23 regular meeting.
Councilman Richard Anderson voted against the measure. Mayor Pro Tem Randy Cauthen was not present.
The proposed budget cuts the property tax by seven-tenths of a cent to 49 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Also, if the budget passes, 115 city employees will see the first of two pay increases in July, based on recommendations from a market study by consulting firm Springsted Inc.
“I don’t see anything here that I really disagree with,” Mayor Bob Misenheimer said of the proposal.
Councilman Kenneth Geathers said the budget reflected “realistic” spending.
“Overall, I think it’s a good, comprehensive budget,” he said.
Anderson said he opposed the budget because the seven-tenths of a cent tax cut was “a pittance,” saving the average homeowner only a few dollars per year.
“It says the city is eating all of the meal and giving taxpayers the crumbs,” Anderson told his colleagues.
During the debate at Monday’s council meeting, Anderson spoke in favor of a 4.7 cent cut, which would decrease the city’s income by some $1.6 million according to the city’s estimate of tax revenues.
The difference could be made up, he argued, by including one-time revenues which Legg kept out of calculations in an attempt to emphasize sustainable spending.
For example, the former Kannapolis Post Office on Vance Street is being offered for sale with projected revenues of up to $3 million according to Legg’s budget presentation.
Even so, Anderson found no support for his argument from fellow council members.
“To wean ourselves off of one-time revenues is something we need to do,” Councilman Darrell Hinnant said.
“I don’t want to lower the tax rate to 45 cents … and then say we have to do 57 (cents) because we spent all the money from the land sales.”
“There’s only one post office you can sell,” Councilman Roger Haas said, adding that such spending would tie the hands of future city leaders.
Anderson acknowledged those facts while reminding fellow council members that some of them had voted to use one-time expenses in past budgets.
But Anderson also denied allegations that he opposed the projects funded in the proposed budget, including Kannapolis’ new fire station and the city workers’ pay increase.
“If any employees got that, I’m sorry,” he told the council and the audience, which included a number of firefighters and police officers. “That’s not what I said.”
The smaller decrease will be offset by delaying payments on the fire department’s new ladder truck until next year and through $3,750 in “miscellaneous cuts.”
“We’re beginning to make some headway,” Hinnant said. “What bothers me is that we can’t do some things we’d like to do because we can’t afford them.”
He cited the much-requested curbside recycling program among other civic improvements as examples.
Misenheimer said the coming year’s budget represents the ongoing transition of Kannapolis from textile town to biotechnology hub.
“I came on in 1989, and we haven’t had a great deal of money to spend over the years,” he said.
“This year, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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