Salisbury budget includes new Parks and Recreation director; public hearing is Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2015

By David Purtell

Salisbury’s proposed budget for next fiscal year includes increased funding for the arts and the hiring of a new director for the Parks and Recreation Department.

New City Manager Lane Bailey said the arts and recreation have a direct impact on the quality of life for a city’s residents. “Every time we improve the quality of life here I see it as economic development,” Bailey said.

The extra funding for arts goes to the Rowan Arts Council, one of several community organizations that request funds from the city each year. It’s a relatively small amount of money, $48,875, but it’s $5,000 more than the group requested and restores funding that has been cut in recent years. The group received $40,500 in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Bailey said the extra money could go a long way when it comes to the group’s efforts to receive grant money. The Rowan Arts Council provides funding for things such as the city’s theaters and the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony.

Salisbury has been without a Parks and Recreation director since 2013 when Gail Elder White was fired by former city manager Doug Paris after city staff found the department had been inflating participation figures. As a cost-saving measure, Paris did not hire a replacement.

The city’s salary range for the position is $67,000 to 108,000.

Assistant City Manager Zack Kyle has been overseeing the department ever since. But Bailey said it’s important to have a person who is solely responsible for managing the department and can focus on developing programs.

The budget also includes adding one sworn police officer, which would bring the total number of sworn officers to 82. But the new officer would not work primarily with the Police Department. Instead, Bailey said, the officer would work with the Code Enforcement Division.

The officer would provide backup to Code Enforcement officers when they go out on calls, Bailey said. It would be a pilot program, he added, similar to one that was successful in Lenoir, where Bailey previously served as city manager.

The extra officer could also assist the Police Department when necessary. City Council has received at least one request this year from residents asking that Code Enforcement officers be allowed to be armed when on duty.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Tuesday during City Council’s regular meeting. Council members will hold a budget workshop June 8 at 9 a.m. at the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities office at 1 Water Street. The budget can be viewed online at by clicking on the “budget” link on the homepage.

Council will likely make the final vote on the budget during the June 16 meeting.

The proposed budget also includes:

• Slight property tax increase of 1.49 cents. The increase would bring the city’s tax rate to 67.18 cents per $100 of valuation. At council’s meeting May 19, Bailey said the fact that property revaluations are slightly down this year was also taken into consideration when setting the rate increase. The loss of $320,000 from the expiration of the privilege-license tax accounts for 1.18 cents of property tax, he said.

• Increasing the residential stormwater fee by 75 cents, which would make the monthly fee $5. Bailey said the city’s stormwater fund has been diminishing and the fee increase is necessary to keep up with the city’s needs. The budget includes nearly $$120,000 worth of stormwater projects.

• Water and sewer fees are not being increased, but tap fees for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities are increased substantially. Bailey said the increase is in order to keep up with the cost of the service.

• Increases in rates for Fibrant video (TV)  packages in order to keep up with increasing costs from providers. The rate increases range from 6 percent to 18 percent depending on the package.

• A 2.5 percent average merit pay increase for city employees.

• $78,000 for police equipment: bulletproof vests, radar units and Tasers.

• $480,000 worth of roof and HVAC system replacements at city-owned buildings.

• $1.2 million to buy a pumper truck for the Fire Department, a rear-loader garbage truck, an automated garbage truck and a Freightliner swaploader truck.

• $30,000 payment to the water and sewer reserve fund to start repaying the more than $7 million taken from the fund between 2008 and 2013 to help Fibrant.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.