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China Grove board proposes tax rate increase

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE — The upcoming budget will reflect a 4 cent tax rate increase following changes to property values in the recent revaluation.
In order to generate the same amount of money in the upcoming fiscal year as the tax rate did this year, the board proposed the increase that would take taxes from 43 cents to 47 cents.
The board increased taxes last year by 5 cents, but had not done so previously since the last revaluations.
In March, Interim Town Manager Ken Deal predicted the town would have to increase to 48 cents at a time when the board had one budget meeting and had not made any final decisions about budget cuts.
The board has not approved its 2011-12 budget, but will meet June 7 to discuss it. There will be a public hearing June 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Finance Officer Mary Jo Bopp said the board asked her in the budget planning stages to look into a 1 percent raise for all employees. Later, it was decided a raise was not feasible and was not included in the final budget.
What was included in the budget was $55,000 salary for the town manager.
Deal, who works about 19 hours a week at $36 an hour as the interim explained the proposed change.
At the last budget meeting Councilman Lee Withers asked if the budget contained money for a town manager if Deal decided to leave?
“It’s not so much we wanted to give Ken a raise. We wanted to make sure we had enough in the budget in case we had to hire someone, then we had the money there,” Withers said by phone.
Withers praised the work Deal has been doing saying “he’s far exceeded what we’ve had in a manager. We needed somebody who has ownership of the community.”
Deal is a China Grove native. He began as interim manager Nov. 8 and will remain until a full-time town manager is hired. There was no indication given as to how long a person can remain as an interim.
Deal said he was just not certain.
Under the retirement system, Deal can only work 999 hours within a year, which works out to less than 20 hours. He is still under his original contract.
Withers said he believed there is no set timeframe a person could remain as interim, but as long as the person, in Deal’s case, works less than 20 hours a week or 999 hours in a year.
The $55,000 included in the budget would be the salary for a future town manager, with room to negotiate for a more competitive rate.
Deal is up for a formal evaluation at which time the board will review the direction it wants to proceed.
The board also has to contend with less money in highway funds. The only money generated for road/highway maintenance is received through the state Powell Bill funds. These funds are produced from the state gas tax and the Highway Trust Fund, which municipalities get a percentage of it and can only be used to repair, maintain, or reconstruct local streets, bikeways or sidewalks.
China Grove expects $106,600 in projected revenue, but Deal said it won’t likely increase next year or be enough to address numerous street repairs.
The board is also expected to approve a contract with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities in an effort to reduce its rates.
The town receives water from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. The town entered into an agreement more than a decade ago when it used more water.
The town has talked with Salisbury in the past about a possible merger that would reduce its rates.
There has also been discussion of breaking the contract with Salisbury and doing business with other systems that offered lower rates.
In February, town officials approved a resolution to transfer the water and sewer system to the control of Salisbury.
“Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, in the long run will help us out as far as economic development because it puts us on a level playing field with the rest of the municipalities,” Withers said.
The board will meet at 7 p.m. at 308 E. Centerview St., in the former South Rowan Medical Mall.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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