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Salisbury budget highlights: Taxes, water and sewer rates will increase

SALISBURY — The City Council on Tuesday approved the fiscal year 2018-19 budget, meaning residents will see changes in property taxes, water and sewer rates, and stormwater fees.

The changes will offset expenditures totaling $8.4 million, a 1.4 increase in spending from this year.

The property tax rate will increase 1 cent, a change City Manager Lane Bailey recommended to “maintain existing services at current levels.”

The increase will lead to an average of $13.55 more annually for homeowners with a median home value of $135,500.

The 1-cent tax increase — raising the city rate from 0.7096 cents to 0.7196 cents per $100 in valuation — will generate $280,421 for the city.

The budget also imposes a 2.15 percent water and sewer increase, resulting in an additional $1.45 per month for customers using 5,000 gallons.

Revenue from this increase will be used for water and wastewater rehabilitation projects. They include capital improvement projects like the Grants Creek pump station and screenings project, which will move partially treated wastewater from a lower to a higher elevation for further treatment.

To offset some of rising water and sewer rates, residents will see a $1 decrease in their monthly stormwater fee, which dropped to $4 per month per “equivalent residential unit,” or 2,500 square feet.

Commercial users will see a larger change in stormwater billing. Under the newly adopted fee schedule, commercial properties will no longer pay flat monthly fees based on square footage.

Before, commercial users paid anywhere from $12 to $360 a month under five tiers.

These users will now pay the same price as residents: $4 per 2,500 square feet. This is capped at $2,500 per month.

For small businesses with limited square footage — neighborhood convenience stores, for example — this will mean an $8 decrease in the monthly payment.

Other businesses could see increases. Fast-food restaurants could now pay double in stormwater fees.

Local churches could see increases of more than 135 percent. Large industrial users at the $2,500 cap will pay nearly 700 percent more than the previous $360 per month.

Finance Director Shannon Moore the rate schedule is how stormwater fees should have been billed all along.

Under the current schedule, homeowners have 25 percent of impervious surfaces but pay for 40 percent of the share.

The new schedule will help even out this distribution so that all parties are “carrying their own suitcases,” said Mayor Pro Tem David Post.

The new structure will fund several projects to reduce flooding and pollution in Salisbury.

“This is one of the most important new things that we’re doing is stormwater management. This affects every single citizen in this community,” said Councilwoman Karen Alexander. “If we don’t do it, we’re having to do more to mitigate that in our water system, which puts a huge burden on our already aging system.”

Other highlights in the budget include:

• $250,000 for the Newsome Road extension (reimbursable from Transportation Improvement Funds by 2019-20).

• $350,000 for enterprise resource planning software.

• $400,000 for the housing stabilization and revitalization plan.

• $350,000 for Bell Tower Green Park.

• $361, 500 for roof and heating-and-air replacements.

• $400,000 for fire station construction (to be reimbursed with future debt).

• $850,000 for a quint firetruck.

• $24,240 for an additional police vehicle.

The budget also includes a cost-of-living pay adjustment of 1.8 percent for all employees to “compensate employees at rates that reflect inflation,” a news release said.

It establishes a merit system to recognize outstanding service and retain high-quality employees, with a 1.2 percent average merit increase.

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