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Proposed city budget has no tax increase

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Under a proposed Salisbury city budget of more than $63.8 million, residents would not see a property tax increase.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that many other city rates and fees could be going up.
City Manager David Treme’s budget plan, seen by Salisbury City Council for the first time Tuesday, recommends a 9.7 percent increase in the average residential water-sewer bill
The cost of riding city buses would increase, and it will cost more to be buried in a city cemetery, according to the plan.
Monthly charges also would increase for recycling, the landfill and front-end waste collection for businesses.
Rising fuel costs are a big reason behind some of the recommended increases.
Treme also referred to “new regulatory fees” for his recommendations to increase the recycling, landfill and front-end collections fees.
The state is charging a $2-a-ton tax on waste taken to the landfill, according to Treme’s budget statement.
Treme said solid waste fees would fluctuate with actual costs to provide the contracted services ó “driven by changes in the fuel surcharge.”
Salisbury City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at its 4 p.m. May 20 meeting at City Hall. The council also has scheduled two-hour budget work sessions for May 27 and May 29.
“There will be some difficult discussions for council and staff,” Treme said. “… Setting priorities will be very important.”
Treme said the budget proposal was driven by the council’s expressed desire for a plan based on current income. It does not maintain current levels of service in some instances, nor does it address all operational and capital needs, Treme said.
Salisbury’s property tax rate would remain at 59 cents per $100 valuation. The owner of property valued at $130,000 pays, for example, $767 a year in city taxes. That’s on top of the Rowan County property taxes that person pays.
Treme said Salisbury has not seen “a great income year,” including only a small gain in sales tax revenues.
Salisbury-Rowan Utilities has been overwhelmed with increased costs for construction, supplies and chemicals, Treme said. In his written budget message, he said consumer conservation, regulatory controls, fuel costs and equipment repair and replacement affected the utility budget.
The average residential water-sewer bill would increase from $62.38 to $68.43, according to the proposal.
Salisbury-Rowan Utilities seeks to add three positions: a pre-treatment coordinator, a hydrant and valve supervisor and a utility locator-inspector.
The total water-sewer portion of the budget is more than $22.2 million.
With the proposed increases in solid waste collection, the revised monthly fees would be $3.19 for recycling, up from $2.81; $3.93 for the residential landfill fee, up from $2.96; $7.32 for the commercial landfill fee, up from $5.53; $10 per container for the commercial pick-up fee, up from $8; and $74.11 per container for front-end collection, up from $58.11.
Bus fares would increase for individuals to $2 and handicapped/senior fares to $1.
Forty-ride passes would cost $75, or $37.50 for reduced fare. ADA paratransit fees will be $4, or $140 for a 40-ride pass.
Treme said he thinks it would be the first bus fare increase in about 10 years.
The budget recommends increasing cemetery fees, still a bargain compared to private competitors, to 20 percent below the local market average.
The burial of an adult in a city cemetery would cost $800 under the proposal.
Here are some other 2008-2009 budget highlights:
– An average 3 percent merit pay increase for all city employees.
– An increase in health-care costs of 1.9 percent.
– Funding for a market compensation study. Exit interviews with employees leaving for other jobs has shown that the city is not competitive within its labor market, Treme said.
– Funding for a Cultural Action Plan, wayfinding signs, the North Main Street project and the Art and History Trail.
– $35,000 for improvements related to the Railwalk off North Lee Street.
– $2 million in lease purchase financing for deferred maintenance items.
– Three new positions (from the general fund): a radio technician, a cemetery equipment operator and an automotive service technician.
– Funding for a Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Treme said the budget fails to include requests for an inspections officer for the Fire Department and more codes enforcement positions.
“Council may want to look at that and check behind me,” Treme said.
High asphalt and gasoline costs also may reduce the lane-miles that the Street Division will be able to pave in the coming year from something like 12 miles to nine, Treme predicted. City mowing cycles also will have to be reduced, he said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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