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Downtown Salisbury Inc. seeks raise in tax rate

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Downtown Salisbury Inc. asked the city to increase the tax rate downtown because property values have fallen by $8 million.
The city has a Municipal Service District with a special tax levied on downtown property owners. Downtown Salisbury asked City Council Tuesday to increase the rate from 16 cents per $100 of valuation to 17.5 cents.
This year, property in downtown is valued at $84.7 million. But after revaluation, the value falls to $76.7 million.
About 43 percent of Downtown Salisbury’s $288,000 budget comes from the Municipal Service District tax. The city’s appropriation makes up 32 percent, with the remainder coming from management of the Plaza and other sources.
Paula Bohland, president of the downtown board, asked the city to maintain its $98,500 appropriation, which has remained flat since 2008.
City Manager David Treme will present a budget for the next fiscal year May 3. The city must cover a $2.7 million shortfall, as well as a $200 million decrease in the city’s property tax base after revaluation.
While downtown lost as many jobs and businesses as it gained last year, investment reached $8.94 million, including the Norvell Theater, courthouse renovations and city parking lot improvements.
Goals for next year include finalizing a debt plan for the Empire Hotel, renovating Wallace parking lot, recruiting businesses, proceeding with conference center design, developing and selling properties on Lee Street, completing new directional signs and improving downtown sidewalks, lighting and landscaping.
Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting:
• The Historic Preservation Master Plan is 40 percent complete. The plan’s website, http://salisburyplan.ning.com, features a 39-page strategic assessment, which provides an overview of historic preservation practices and programming for the city and preservation partners.
• Council approved a resolution supporting the Yadkin Pee-Dee River Basin Association, which is concerned that the N.C. Division of Water Quality has circumvented rules intended to protect lakes from pollution.
The resolution and accompanying letter ask the Environmental Management Commission to review a process that failed to classify High Rock Lake as “nutrient sensitive,” unlike other bodies of water.
• Eleven restaurants have met the one-year deadline to install devices as part of the Fats, Oils and Grease Control Program, coordinator Teresa Barringer said. Nine more should meet the upcoming two-year deadline, she said.
Restaurants that comply early are rewarded. The city has granted about $22,000 in incentives.
• Council agreed to pursue Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funding to pay for sidewalks from Livingstone College to Kelsey Scott Park ($300,000) and build bicycles loops along West Innes Street and around Catawba College ($325,000).
If approved, federal dollars would pay 80 percent of the cost of the projects and the city would pay 20 percent.
Salisbury can compete for Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funding because the city has poor air quality. The city had about 30 ozone action days last summer, when it was not safe for children or people with asthma to be outside, City Engineer Dan Mikkelson said.
So far, the city has used CMAQ money to start the Rowan Express bus service, offer free bus fare and build sidewalks, including along Statesville Boulevard and at Salisbury High School. Projects totaled $1 million.
Approved but not completed projects, which total $8 million and would require $1 million from the city, include new a traffic signal system, public bus expansion, a bike lane on Newsome Road and sidewalks at Salisbury Mall, South Main Street, Bringle Ferry Road and Newsome Road. City Council will vote on each project before committing the money.
• The city will hold a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. April 18 at Southside Baptist Church, 517 Morlan Park Road, to discuss installing automatic warning systems at railroad crossings on Pearl Street, Tower Drive and Davis Street.
• The city will apply for a grant that could save the Lash Drive Connector, a van route that links residents of Crosswinds Apartments, Lakewood, Laurel Pointe, Hidden Cove and Fleming Heights to the nearby Food Lion and Salisbury Mall.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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