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Kannapolis council debates tax cut

By Hugh Fisher
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó The latest round of budget discussions grew slightly heated with tough questions about expenses and the extent ó and effect ó of any possible tax cuts.
The debate over the 2008-2009 Kannapolis budget lasted most of two hours but produced no concrete decisions.
The total budget of $45.6 million is expected to come up for a vote at the board’s June 23 meeting.
But the fact that council members seemed satisfied with staff recommendations led council member Darrell Hinnant to question the need for a work session slated for Wednesday.
“Why are we getting together?” Hinnant asked his colleagues. “Are we going to have two more hours of platitudes and Mr. Anderson being unhappy about not getting anything done?”
Councilman Richard Anderson had earlier expressed distaste for the short turnaround time on this year’s budget.
“And I say to Mr. Legg and staff that I hope this never happens again,” Anderson said.
City Manager Mike Legg responded by saying that the budget was delayed while staff obtained up-to-date figures from Cabarrus County.
The session focused on questions for clarification. No major changes were presented by the council or Mayor Bob Misenheimer.
Anderson asked for explanations of discrepancies in several items before coming to his main point ó the inadequacy of a proposed seven-tenths of a cent property-tax cut.
The current rate is 49.7 cents per $100 of value.
Cutting the tax rate by one cent would cost the city about $345,000 and would save the average property owner less than a dollar a month.
Staff estimates suggest that that decrease can easily be absorbed without causing harm to needed programs and expenditures, Legg said.
A property revaluation in Cabarrus County is adding about $3.2 million to the city’s revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.
Council members and Legg agreed that seven-tenths of a cent was not much of a decrease.
“It gets us back to a whole number is really all it does,” Legg said.
“To me, that’s not really tax relief. That’s more a symbolic gesture,” Councilman Roger Haas said.
Anderson’s words were much harsher as he called the proposed decrease “a slap in the face.”
“There are folks suffering out there … We have a terrible economy at this point in time. The folks are hurting. They need relief,” he said.
Anderson told council members he would prefer the rate be cut to 45 cents per $100, but that he knows there is not support on the board for such a drastic cut.
A public hearing on the budget drew response from only three residents.
Jack Cuff said he would be in favor of a tax increase to find more sources of water. It’s not fair for longtime residents to suffer under restrictions when the city is extending service to new residents, he said.
Archie Barnhardt praised Legg and council members but said he would like to see more support for the elderly.
Barnhardt, 81, spoke to the high cost of heating oil and high tax bills that those on fixed incomes must suffer.
Deborah Carter, a Kannapolis native who’s recently returned to the area, spoke in favor of curbside recycling ó much discussed recently, but not a part of the current budget.
With a price tag of more than $1 million to implement, a recycling program, while supported, would require a user fee and substantial investment, both of which Carter said she supported.
Discussion on the budget will continue at 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Kannapolis Train Station, 306 N. Main Street.
In other business Monday, the council:
– Approved an $874,464 installment financing agreement with Fifth Third Bank, formerly First Charter, for the Kannapolis Parkway water line.
– Accepted the Powell Bill allotments for the 2008-09 fiscal year, adding all or part of 23 streets to the city’s system.
– Adopted an amendment to the capital project ordinance for the Rogers Lake Road Extension in the amount of $800,000.
Contact Hugh Fisher at 704-797-4245 or hfisher@salisburypost.com.

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