Granite Quarry staring at tax increase for 2014-15

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2014

GRANITE QUARRY — Blame it on a new fire truck, but Granite Quarry residents are probably looking at a property tax increase.
The Board of Aldermen held a budget work session Monday in which the consensus among members was the town’s property tax rate will have to increase a minimum of 2 cents per $100 valuation.
The current Granite Quarry rate is 40 cents per $100 valuation.
To the owner of a $100,000 home, a 2-cent-per-$100 rate increase would mean his town tax bill would increase from $400 a year to $420.
To meet a $1,953,819 recommended budget for 2014-2015, aldermen also plan to increase the town’s solid waste collection fee per property from $10.50 a month to $11.
The 50-cent-per-month increase would generate an extra $4,430 for the town.
The budget also proposes a vehicle tax of $5 per car or truck — a new charge.
With an estimated 1,700 vehicles in Granite Quarry, the tax would generate $8,500.
Overall, Town Manager Dan Peters’ budget proposal recommends a 3 percent pay increase for town employees. Mayor Bill Feather and the rest of the board also would see a slight increase.
The mayor’s annual salary would go from $3,000 to $3,200 a year. Salary expenses for four other board members would go up from $7,400 to $8,200, or also $200 per board member.
Peters said projected revenues of $1,906,584 fall $47,235 short of expenses. To balance the proposed budget, he said, would take a property tax increase of 2.5 cents per $100 valuation, as long as the new vehicle tax and increase in garbage fees were included.
Without those items, the property tax rate would have to increase by 3.5 cents per $100 valuation, Peters said.
A penny on the tax rate in Granite Quarry generates $19,315 in revenue.
The main reasons behind the $47,235 shortfall are a $38,539 annual payment toward a new fire truck, expected to be delivered this fall, and an extra $14,750 in the Parks & Recreation budget for resurfacing, sealing and re-striping all three tennis courts at Civic Park.
Feather polled his fellow board members, who seemed agreed that a minimum rate increase of 2 cents per $100 is acceptable to pay for the fire truck.
“I think that’s easily defensible,” Alderman Mike Brinkley said.
Those $38,539 annual payments on the truck will last seven years.
Brinkley said he could not go with 2.5 cents on the rate, as recommended, and suggested finding the savings by cutting into the Maintenance Department’s request.
Peters will be reworking the numbers and returning to the board with a new budget proposal June 2. Aldermen are expected to set a public hearing on the budget for later in June.
The 2014-2015 fiscal year begins July 1.
At first, aldermen discussed the idea of putting a sunset provision of seven years on the coming year’s tax increase, so a future board would be obligated to cut the rate at least by 2 cents once the fire truck were paid off.
Alderman Arin Wilhelm initially spoke in favor of the sunset as a way of demonstrating to residents that “it’s not us frivolously raising taxes.”
But Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers said the board should just tell people what the tax increase is for rather than obligating future boards to an automatic decrease in seven years.
Alderwoman Mary Ponds agreed, and other board members reached a consensus on that point.
Brinkley had another sticking point with the proposed budget. It calls for a town contribution of $3,573 to RowanWorks, or the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission.
For now, Brinkley said, he would vote against any budget including the allocation to the EDC.
During the budget work session, aldermen also agreed on increasing park shelter and gazebo rental fees.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.