Salisbury City Council discusses potential property tax increase as part of new budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2018

SALISBURY — With the city’s next fiscal-year budget due June 30, the Salisbury City Council met Wednesday to discuss financial priorities.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the Capital Improvement Plan — which looks at the city’s finances 10 years into the future — calls for a 2-cent property tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year.

But, Bailey said, because of promising revenue projections for growth in sales tax revenue, 1 cent of that increase could be absorbed and wouldn’t hit taxpayers.

Bailey said the plan still has a 1-cent property tax increase budgeted because the city “did not have the anticipated growth we were hoping for in the property tax base.”

Bailey said the Capital Improvement Plan — which will influence the budget for the next fiscal year — has not yet been completed.

He said city administrators are still looking for places they can make cuts and adjustments.

Where money will go

During the meeting, Police Chief Jerry Stokes made a case for hiring four new police officers and two new detectives.

“My Criminal Investigations Division is at capacity and past. The Department of Justice has said that my detectives are overworked,” Stokes said. “I need to be very careful about burnout with them, and I need to get them some help.”

Stokes said that in the meantime, he will be pulling officers off patrol to help detectives and using the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to help fill patrol gaps.

“Just because I’ve got to get that response and capability for detectives up to where it needs to be,” Stokes said.

The Police Department has an ongoing mutual-aid agreement with the Sheriff’s Office that allows the agencies to use each other’s officers.

Councilman Brian Miller clarified by saying that “to some extent,” the Police Department could manage its staffing shortage by continuing to use the county for patrols.

“So we could borrow time as it relates to that. But that is a more costly solution, is that correct?” Miller asked. “It’s more expensive than when we hire our own folks?”

Stokes said yes.

Bailey said he would suggest the council to consider using fund-balance money to pay for the new officers and then reimburse the general fund when budgeting for the fiscal 2019-20 budget.

“And then when we get to the 2019-20 budget, the Fibrant savings could go to cover what the increased cost of this area is going to be,” Bailey said.

Mayor Pro Tem David Post asked Bailey earlier in the meeting if the 2018-19 budget had been altered to reflect the Fibrant-Hotwire lease that was approved by voters Tuesday.

Bailey said that because the city still has to pay Fibrant employee salaries for the six-month transition period, he does not expect substantial savings in the first year of the lease.

“We’ve tweaked that a little bit to give us a couple hundred thousand for the first year. And we’re trying to be as conservative as possible with that,” Bailey said.

The lease between the city and Hotwire takes effect July 1.

What’s next

Bailey said the city needs to set up a public meeting to discuss refinancing the city’s Fibrant-related debt.

Because the Fibrant-Hotwire lease will give operation of Fibrant’s assets to Hotwire, a private company, the city will have to refinance its debt with taxable debt.

The City Council set the meeting for at 3:30 p.m. May 24 at City Hall, 217 S. Main St.

Bailey said the meeting would likely include a public hearing.

A budget workshop to further discuss the 2018-19 budget will be scheduled soon.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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