No tax hike in Granite Quarry, but garbage fees going up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

By Mark Wineka

GRANITE QUARRY — The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen proved a lot can change in a few days.

Last week, town officials were looking at a 2018-19 budget that would have raised taxes by 5.4 cents per $100 valuation.

But after Wednesday’s session of adjustments, most of which were recommended by Town Manager Phil Conrad, aldermen arrived at a $2.246 million budget that will keep the town’s property tax rate at 41.75 cents per $100 valuation.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

As part of reaching a balanced budget without a tax hike, the aldermen have proposed increasing the monthly garbage collection fee for Granite Quarry’s 1,151 households from $11 a month to $12 a month.

The increase will help cover Waste Management’s 3 percent contract increase. By raising the fees, the town’s revenues for solid waste collection will go from $141,679 to $165,744.

One of the biggest budget reductions made Wednesday came in part-time salaries for the Granite Quarry Fire Department. That line item was reduced by $52,000, from a proposed $212,000 to $160,000.

“It ensures you of two-man coverage,” Fire Chief Dale Brown said.

The ultimate goal is to have three firefighters, so the station can be covered 24 hours.

“This is a step toward getting another person next year, if the revenues improve,” Brown said.

Alderman John Linker described it as getting the town up to two-thirds of the coverage it wants.

Brown said finding an in-town replacement for him — Brown does not live in Granite Quarry — and making that person an “interim patch” might be a way of providing the third person in the coming fiscal year.

In another budget move related to the Fire Department, aldermen decided to dip deeper into the town’s fund balance and pay off the newest firetruck two years early at roughly $74,900.

The money that was going to go toward interest will go back to the Fire Department.

“Paying that off,” Alderman Kim Cress said, “is working to solve another problem.”

Aldermen Jim Costantino, Cress and Linker expressed a desire to help the Fire Department as much as possible within the budget constraints.

Linker said extra revenue could be available next year for the Fire Department with the interest saved, a possible sale of property at Main and Rowan streets, earnings on investments and increased property tax revenue from the new State Employees’ Credit Union and the Village at Granite subdivision.

In other budget adjustments, Conrad recommended the town’s “visionary projects” line item be reduced from $30,000 to $20,000. These are funds set aside to help implement parts of the Downtown Master Plan.

Contracted services for code enforcement were reduced from $15,000 to $7,500. A capital outlay line item to purchase land for leaf and limb storage for $22,500 was eliminated. Money for sidewalks went from $20,000 to $10,000.

The budget includes $6,145 toward establishing a veterans memorial in Granite Quarry — down from an earlier estimate of $12,000.

The town was hoping a grant would pay for half the cost of the memorial. Costantino said he is confident private contributions could pay for the whole thing.

A penny on Granite Quarry’s property tax rate raises $20,948.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers surveyed some local banks to check their rates on investment options, such as CDs and savings accounts. He said Granite Quarry could do much better with its interest on investments and make a minimum of $2,145 to start.

“You have to put that in place,” LaFevers said. “You have to start doing it.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.