Granite Quarry tax rate won’t change; mayor wants to do more on street, park improvements

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2019

By Mark Wineka

GRANITE QUARRY — As the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen moved quickly Tuesday to adopt a no-tax-increase 2019-2020 budget, Mayor Bill Feather asked whether the town board was putting enough money into maintenance.

Feather said residents and the board itself verbally put priorities on things such as repaving streets, building and repairing sidewalks and updating the parks. But he wasn’t sure this budget or those in years past have reflected those priorities.

Feather noted increases the police and fire departments have received over time and how money allocated to the maintenance department, which takes care of the streets and parks, hasn’t necessarily kept up.

Not counting a capital outlay of $30,000 for a new truck, the maintenance department budget for the new fiscal year will be roughly $262,000.

Feather said the maintenance department budget stood at roughly $231,000 five years ago and $227,000 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, the police and fire department budgets have grown significantly over that same 10 years, according to Feather.

The new budget calls for the police and fire departments to receive $685,268 and $450,000, respectively — again, not counting capital outlay toward vehicles or vehicle repairs that make their total budgets $726,268 and $499,831.

Feather stressed he wasn’t opposed to the budget passed Tuesday by the board of aldermen’s 4-0 vote, but he still wanted to make aldermen aware of what he considers a continued shortfall in maintenance.

Feather said maintenance items were always among residents’ chief concerns.

He also noted the budget passed Tuesday takes nothing out of general fund’s reserves to address street, sidewalk and park issues.

The mayor found his fellow board members in agreement with him.

“Let’s do it,” Alderman John Linker said. “What do you recommend?”

Alderman Kim Cress said he wishes this discussion would have come up earlier in the budget process.

“I don’t know why,” said Cress, a former maintenance department head for the town, “but I have a soft spot in my heart for maintenance.”

But the worst part is not knowing what kind of price tag the town is facing for the maintenance items it wants to address, Cress said.

Board members generally agreed they will have to allocate money from the general fund balance and/or borrow money to put together the kind of special maintenance package needed.

The budget passed Tuesday includes $82,557 in Powell Bill funds from the state toward street improvements. Aldermen are looking to leverage that amount into a much bigger allocation toward streets and sidewalks.

The budget also allocates $437,793 for Granite Lake Park repairs, needed after last year’s rains and flooding. Most of that — at least $328,345 — will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but it doesn’t address other park issues overall, such as restoration of the tennis courts at Granite Civic Park.

Linker asked that the board set aside time at its July 1 meeting to “circle back” to these maintenance projects, put them on a timeline “and do them.”

Aldermen also will discuss how to finance those maintenance priorities.

Cress noted a lot of things such as street repaving, sidewalk and park improvements are weather sensitive and will have to be scheduled based on the time of year.

In passing a 2019-2020 budget, aldermen kept the property tax rate at 41.75 cents per $100 valuation. The environmental fee for garbage and recycling pickup stays at $12 a month per residence.

With all funds, the town’s total budget is $3,112,880.

The general fund accounts for $2,397,287, while anticipated industrial development and FEMA grant funds make up an additional $715,593.

Employees will be getting a 2.2 percent raise. The Granite Quarry-Faith Police Authority will be hiring two additional full-time officers under this budget.

The budget allocates $54,167 toward the debt service on a water-line extension to the Village at Granite and an upfront payment of $277,800 for an industrial development grant going toward a sewer extension into the town’s industrial park off Chamandy Drive.

The town will be reimbursed $243,075 on the state grant for the sewer line extension.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.