Granite Quarry aldermen think they can avoid tax increase with new budget
By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — In their first thorough look at a proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, Granite Quarry town officials like what they see.
With some tweaks here and there, the tax rate should stay at 41.25 cents per $100 valuation. Some capital projects will be addressed. And town employees could see a 2 percent to 3 percent raise.
Town Manager Phil Conrad gave the Board of Aldermen a budget recommending $2,068,369 in total expenses, and it was just $9,531 short of projected revenues for 2017-18. The new fiscal year will start July 1, and aldermen expressed confidence that adjustments can be made to have a balanced budget by June 30.
The aldermen discussed the budget for the first time in public at a Monday afternoon session, and Mayor Bill Feather concluded, “We’re really close on the numbers.”
“I think we’re in good shape,” Mayor Pro Tem Mike Brinkley said. “We just have to move things around.”
Alderman Jim LaFevers expressed the sentiment shared by others in the room Monday: “I just don’t want to raise taxes,” he said.
Conrad’s budget proposes a 2 percent raise for town employees. Feather said the state average this year will be 2.34 percent.
Alderman Arin Wilhelm said he would like to see a wage increase of as much as 3 percent for Granite Quarry employees, and board members thought the budget could absorb that kind of raise, if warranted.
The proposed budget includes $35,000 for costs associated with implementing a downtown master plan. That money would go toward things such as decorative banners and facade, landscaping and sidewalk improvements.
The Fire Department has requested $50,000 for the purchase of new air packs and $6,300 to replace some supply hose. The budget also calls for $10,000 to start a new firetruck replacement fund.
The maintenance department asked for $25,000 for a leaf vacuum and $5,000 for new street signs.
The Police Department has a total of $53,840 in requests, including $35,000 for a new vehicle and its equipment, $10,000 for police protective gear, $5,700 for radar units and $3,140 for four mobile computers.
Brinkley said he was particularly impressed with capital improvement requests because they are more modest than he expected.
Conrad’s budget also calls for $80,000 toward providing water-sewer taps at the new industrial park off Chamandy Drive.
The budget includes $83,000 in Powell Bill funds to help with street repairs and repaving.
With the assistance of a large federal grant and matching dollars from the town, the budget also has $490,000 for sidewalk construction.
“We’re going to have a lot of stuff coming down the pike,” Brinkley said of the future.
Because of that, Brinkley added, the town should think about hiring its own zoning administrator and planner.
Susan Closner used to hold that position, but Benchmark has been providing planning services on a contractual basis since her departure.
Conrad told Brinkley the town has been running an advertisement seeking a full-time zoning administrator and planner.
Brinkley also told his fellow board members to prepare for development costs — a new entry road would be first, for example — for property they have bought for athletic fields off Faith Road.
Wilhelm, a big proponent of the fields, said a rough estimate of the costs is $174,000 for the lacrosse/soccer fields envisioned.
A public hearing on the budget has not been set.
In other business Monday, the board discussed whether the town should ask a Raleigh attorney to review a proposed new town logo. The attorney could advise whether any copyright issues would come into play.
“Let’s face it,” Brinkley said, “it’s ‘GQ’ no matter what we do.”
Would “GQ” infringe, for example, on what might already be trademarked by GQ magazine (formerly Gentlemen’s Quarterly)?
Town Attorney Graham Corriher said the Raleigh attorney, recommended by the N.C. League of Municipalities for these kinds of questions, could investigate the trademark or copyright issues for a fee of $320 an hour, with an expected ceiling of about $1,000.
“I just don’t see spending a thousand dollars on this,” LaFevers said, and other board members agreed.
The logo will be used on things such as the town’s website, stationery and marketing materials.
Feather asked whether the town should look at getting its own proposed logo copyrighted.
Brinkley said he is against getting it copyrighted and maybe calling it to the attention of someone who would challenge the logo.
In other business, aldermen:
• Announced that Friday will be Town Clerk Barbie Blackwell’s last day. She will have served as town clerk for exactly three years. Aldermen plan to have a lunch for her Thursday.
• Agreed to give two gates, which used to be in place at Granite Lake Park, to the Rowan Peace Officers Association for use as security gates at the association’s firing range. The Peace Officers Association made the request.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.