China Grove decreases property tax rate by 4 cents

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2019

SALISBURY — The China Grove Town Council unanimously passed a revenue-neutral budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that will decrease the property tax rate by 4 cents per $100 of valuation.

The budget is a strong, respectable one for taxpayers, said Mayor Lee Withers.

The budget puts the new property tax rate at 54 cents per $100 of property valuation. Last year’s tax rate was 58 cents per $100 valuation.

The lower rate comes as the town’s projected tax base increased to roughly $348 million as a result of this year’s county property revaluation. This will produce an estimated $1.8 million — 50% of the revenue for the general fund.

“(China Grove’s) general fund operating revenue levels has slowly started increasing in the past few years,” according to a budget message presented to the board by Town Manager Ken Deal last Tuesday. “We will continue to provide essential services to our citizens without charging fees or raising taxes.”

Other revenue streams for the town primarily come from the sales tax, utility franchise taxes and other general fund revenue, according to the budget message. These together will generate $1.6 million or 44% of the revenue for the general fund.

The remaining 6% of revenue will come from the transfer from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities for debt services, according to the budget message.

The Town Council is pretty excited about where the town will be financially, Withers said, and the council remains optimistic that it will accrue more than $100,000 in the fund balance.

Withers added that there is no need to raise spending this year.

Future budget needs

While not addressed in this year’s budget, Withers said in an interview with the Post that there are several projects the council stands ready to confront in the coming years. He listed four potential projects the town might need to address: stormwater regulations, parks and recreation infrastructure, highway maintenance and the infrastructure projects at Exit 68 of Interstate 85.

The concern for the additional increase in stormwater capacity comes as the town expects to face an audit from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality next year.

Asked about next year’s audit, Withers said stormwater could cause a lot of economic exposure for the town or very little.

The town might face one of two penalties if it does not adequately address a stormwater plan: a notice of violation, which means the town is ignoring permit requirements, and a notice of deficiency, which means the town is not doing enough to address problems.

Withers said if more funding is needed as a result of the 2020 stormwater audit, the board will consider two options — creating a fee-based system for stormwater services or raising the tax rate.

Withers added that the current board would use these options only as a last resort.

Withers said the board will seek to continue investments in the coming years for the Community Memorial Building at 412 S. Myrtle Ave.

And, Withers raised concern that highways in China Grove need improvements as well.

The only highway funding the town currently receives is through the Powell Bill, according to the budget message. Several streets in China Grove are considered to be in poor condition, the budget message states.

Withers said the town will also need to work with the Rowan County Economic Development Commission as the Exit 68 corridor continues to develop.

Other municipal budgets in Rowan County

• Cleveland: On Monday, after a public hearing and board meeting on the 2019-20 budget, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to maintain the tax rate at 28 cents per $100 of property valuation, said Town Clerk Cathy Payne.

While the board did not technically vote to keep the rate revenue-neutral, Payne said that changing the rate would have been less than a cent.

• Rockwell: At a public hearing on the budget Monday, the Rockwell Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 to approve the budget, said Town Clerk Marlene Dunn. This means not changing the property tax rate, which is 46 cents per $100 of valuation.

Since it is a re-evaluation year, by keeping the rate the same, the board did not move to a revenue-neutral rate. This means revenue collection will go up, Dunn said in an email to the Post.

The town will also look to transfer $50,000, if needed, from the fund balance “for planning/engineering on a new Police Department,” she said in the email.

• Faith: Faith is currently working on revisions to its proposed budget, said Administrative Assistant Teri Hart. The town will hold a vote on its budget June 24, she said.

Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264.