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Give your two cents on proposed city budget

SALISBURY — Salisbury City Council will take public comment on a proposed budget that would increase taxes, garbage fees, water-sewer rates and Fibrant TV rates.
Council members will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 217 S. Main St. The council will make final budget decisions during a two-day budget workshop later this month. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
Calling this budget year a “challenging one,” City Manager Doug Paris is recommending a 2.9 cent property tax rate increase, 2.9 percent water-sewer fee increase, $1 monthly garbage fee increase and a rate increase for Fibrant television customers. He said the increases for the most part are caused by higher costs and state cuts.
Nearly all of the 2.9 cent property tax increase — 2.45 cents — would cover the loss of $659,000 caused by the expiration of “transitional hold harmless” payments that the state has been making to a group of about 100 cities in North Carolina, including Salisbury.
The allocations were enacted by the legislature in 2002 to help communities make up the loss of shared revenue from a tax on business inventory, which had been repealed.
The additional .45 cents in Paris’ proposed tax rate increase would go to fund four projects:
• Widening Newsome Road, including the city’s first bike lanes, $279,000
• Sidewalks on Bringle Ferry Road, $59,730
• Expanding public transit service to Wallace Commons and medical offices on Julian Road, about $40,000
• More street lights in the West End, about $40,000
Considering the tough budget, City Council members have encouraged supporters of these four projects to speak out at the public hearing.
“Is this something that folks in that part of town really want?” Councilman Brian Miller said. “I need to hear that.”
The proposed $1 increase to the garbage fee would pay for the annualized cost of an automated single-arm trash truck and new rollout trash carts that work better with the automated truck.
The recommended 2.9 percent increase in the water-sewer rate would cover higher operational costs, including increased maintenance to replace broken or leaking sewer infrastructure, higher cost for Salisbury-Rowan Utility employee health care and a 2.5 percent merit pool for SRU employees.
Paris has proposed a 2.5 percent merit pool for all city employees. Raises for employees in the General Fund would be paid for through the elimination of vacant positions, not the property tax increase.
The Fibrant rate increase affects TV subscribers only, increasing their rates by about $2 to $12 a month based on their channel package.
Also on Tuesday’s agenda:
• City Council will receive a petition for voluntary annexation. The Rowan County Agricultural and Industrial Fair Association wants the city to annex 25 acres located on Julian Road. As required by state law, the annexation request will be discussed at three City Council meetings.
At the first meeting, council members will receive the request and instruct the city clerk to investigate. Then, staff will certify whether the request meets state law, and the council will set a public hearing date.
Finally, the council will hold the public hearing and vote on the annexation.
• The Rowan Arts Council has awarded a $5,000 Grassroots Grant to the city’s Public Art Committee to help pay for the installation of four sculptures at Interstate 85 at exit 76. The artwork is scheduled to be installed later this month and will remain for one year.
• City Council will hold a public hearing and consider changing the Land Development Ordinance to relax regulation of secondary homes in the rural residential zoning districts. The Planning Board unanimously recommended the change.
• City Council will hold a public hearing and consider changing the sidewalk requirements in the Land Development Ordinance.
The text amendment would not water down the city’s goal of growing a comprehensive, interconnected sidewalk system, especially for new streets or new development, city staff said. The changes would make the sidewalk requirements more business-friendly and equitable, staff said.
Planning board members have recommended City Council drop the requirement for sidewalks along existing streets in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, an area just beyond the city limits.
Planning board members also have recommended the city require a maximum of 400 feet of sidewalk with a parking lot expansion or building expansion within the city limits. Four hundred feet is about the length of one city block.
Developers who build a new street still would have to build sidewalks with no exceptions. With development on existing streets in the city limits, developers can build sidewalks or pay in lieu.
• City Council will receive public comments.
• City Manager Doug Paris’ comments.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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