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Three Rowan municipalities increase taxes for 2018-19 fiscal year

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

With all Rowan County municipal budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year adopted, residents in three municipalities are seeing property tax increases as high as 5 cent per $100 in valuation.

Landis’ Board of Alderman approved this 5-cent increase in late June this year, raising property taxes 53 cents per $100 in valuation, or from $720 to $795 annually on a $150,000 home.

One of many factors in the “aggressive budget,” according to town manager Reed Linn, was the first cost-of-living raise for town employees since 2007-08.

East Spencer saw the next highest property tax jump, with a 3-cent increase and 66.25-cent rate moving the town into the second highest slot among Rowan’s towns and cities.

The increase went toward police payroll increases and debt service payments on a new firetruck.

Rowan’s county seat, Salisbury, remains the municipality with the highest rate by 5.71 cents. A 1-cent increase this year brought the city to a rate of 71.96 cents per $100 in valuation.

All remaining municipalities kept their prior year rates, meaning no decreases were seen this year.

Salisbury’s rate is 43.96 cents higher than Rowan’s town with the smallest property tax. Cleveland charges residents just 28 cents within its town limits.

The city has the second highest population by nearly 30,000 when compared to other Rowan County towns and cities. In 2016, the city had 34,001 residents compared to China Grove’s 4,216.

Bi-county Kannapolis boasts a population of 47,839 by comparison, yet trails Salisbury’s property tax rate by 8.96 cents with a rate of 63 cents.

While Kannapolis officials didn’t raise its tax rate this year, it increased monthly recycling and trash collection fees by $3.75 in an effort to offset a struggling recycling market.

Kannapolis also added $15 to its annual vehicle license fee, bringing it to $30.

With these and other factored revenue sources, Kannapolis plans to spend $69.3 million in the now-current fiscal year.

This is $60.9 million more than Salisbury’s budgeted $8.4 million, and $68.3 million higher than Rowan’s smallest municipality, Faith.

Faith, with 800 residents, budgeted just $961,674.

Budget highlights from all Rowan County’s municipalities, in order from least to most expensive property tax rate, are as follows:

Cleveland

  • Property taxes: 28 cents.
  • Total budget: $1.6 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: None.

The town of Cleveland will this year operate with $994,700 dedicated to the general fund, $138,000 to the water fund and $475,100 to the sewer fund.

Budget highlights include a $236,755 combined on general government and administration, $5,200 combined for parks and recreation and $146,990 in maintenance costs.

The town will also allocate $478,530 combined for police and fire protection, with the majority — $442,830 — for police.

Faith

  • Property taxes: 41 cents.
  • Total budget: $961,674.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: None.

Faith’s general fund is $580,424, including this year $123,813 for its fire department and $140,793 for Granite Quarry-Faith Joint Police Authority.

The 2018-19 general fund also includes $208,918 in administrative costs, $16,250 in transportation, $43,300 in environmental protection, $7,800 for the library, and $39,550 toward a new firetruck.

Water, sewer and public works costs make up the remaining $381,250 budgeted.

Granite Quarry

  • Property taxes: 41.75 cents.
  • Total budget: $2.3 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: $1 per month increase in waste collection or “environmental” fees.

This year, Granite Quarry budgeted $428,795 in administration costs, with $20,000 dedicated to downtown revitalization.

The budget allowed for the purchase and outfitting of a new police car at $37,500, a police department fund of $648,818 including Faith’s $140,793 contribution, and a fire department fund of $405,203.

Town employees will receive a 2.13 percent merit pay increase determined by the town manager and department heads.

Rockwell

  • Property taxes: 41.75 cents.
  • Total budget: $1.5 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: No change.

According to Town Clerk Marlene Dunn, Rockwell saw a $100,000 decrease in its budget this year: the 2017-18 budget alloted for the purchase of new air tanks for the fire department.

Some $442,843 of the budget were dedicated to administrative costs this year, $211,151 for the fire department and $475,352 for the police department.

Landis

  • Property taxes: 53 cents.
  • Total budget: $3.5 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: 5-cent increase.
  • Fee changes: New $30 annual vehicle fee.

In its 2018-19 budget, the town of Landis plans to use its 5-cent increase in property taxes to enable a new road improvement project and give employees their first cost-of-living raises since 2007-08.

Around $300,000 is planned for street work in the year ahead, the first of several million dollars worth of road work needed across the town.

China Grove

  • Property taxes: 58 cents.
  • Total budget: $3.8 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: No change.

With a budget of $3.8 million, China Grove boasts a fund balance of 42 percent. According to Town Manager Ken Deal, the North Carolina Local Government Commission requires an 8 percent minimum for municipalities and recommends towns its size keep a balance of 60 percent.

Deal said that town revenues have increased and that the town’s economy is expected to continue to improve during the next fiscal year.

Kannapolis

  • Property taxes: 63 cents.
  • Total budget: $69.3 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: $3.75 increase in environmental fee; $15 increase in annual vehicle license fee.

Kannapolis’ $69.3 million budget is a 1.8 percent increase year over year, accounting for a $2.5 percent increase in the city’s population.

The increase will lead to 15 new positions throughout the city, as well as continued downtown revitalization and a 2 percent market adjustment raise for city employees.

Spencer

  • Property taxes: 65.5 cents.
  • Total budget: $3.2 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: No change.
  • Fee changes: No change.

In the 2018-19 fiscal year, Spencer’s budget will see to the purchase and renovation of Park Plaza for new town offices and a redesign of stormwater drains on Fourth Street.

Town employees will see a 10.8 percent potential increase for health insurance and a 2 percent base salary increase.

The police and fire departments each saw year-over-year decreases in their budgets.

East Spencer

  • Property taxes: 66.25 cents.
  • Total budget: $2.4 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: 3-cent increase.
  • Fee changes: 2.5-percent increase for water and sewer services.

By increasing property taxes 3 cents, the town of East Spencer seeks to cover the costs of personnel, vehicles and equipment for both its police and fire departments.

The police department will see a pay increase for all employees, raising its budget from $202,065 to $255,666.

The town will purchase a 2018 Spartan S-180 firetruck for $36,509 annually starting this year.

Salisbury

  • Property taxes: 71.96 cents.
  • Total budget: $8.4 million.
  • Increase/decrease in taxes: 1-cent increase.
  • Fee changes: 2.15 increase in water and sewer; $1 decrease in monthly stormwater fee.

Changes in stormwater fees this year were meant to help balance the system, making industrial users pay more of their share of usage.

The city this year will invest in $250,000 the Newsome Road extension, $350,000 in the upcoming Bell Tower Green Park, $400,000 in housing stabilization and rehabilitation and more.

Employees will also receive a 1.8 percent cost-of-living pay adjustment and 1.2 average merit pay increase.

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