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China Grove’s proposed 2020-21 budget won’t increase property taxes

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — In June, China Grove Town Council members are scheduled to vote on the proposed 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which town manager Ken Deal said is similar to the current year’s spending document and won’t include an increase in the property tax rate.

Council members scheduled a public hearing and vote on the proposed budget for June 2 during a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. The recommended 2020-21 budget reflects a revenue total of $3.86 million. The property tax rate is at 54 cents per $100 in valuation, with an estimated tax base of $350 million and a 97.75% collection rate. The 2020-21 budget estimates a total of $1.72 million to come from property tax collections.

Last year, the town council passed a revenue-neutral budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that decreased the property tax rate by 4 cents per $100 of valuation.

Deal said China Grove residents can expect the “same level of services” without a tax increase, praising town officials for putting enough money in its reserves to prepare for something like the potential economic impact from COVID-19.

The town’s proposed budget would use $168,000 from reserves to balance the budget, but Deal said the town hopes for additional sales tax revenue. Budget documents state that as of June 30 the town had 53% of its general fund expenditures in its cash reserves.

Deal said the town “kept it as lean as possible” in the proposed budget, even delaying some capital projects until more information is learned about the impact of COVID-19’s shutdowns to sales tax revenue. He added that the budget “isn’t set in stone,” as the impact to local tax revenue is still unclear at this time.

In March, council members met for a budget retreat to discuss immediate and long-term priorities that include completion of the two indoor bathrooms at the China Grove Community Center, developing park amenities at the center, the formulation of a street repair plan and determining how best to fund the town’s storm water and waste management services.

Currently, the town is expecting a decrease in the next fiscal year of $83,500 in sales tax revenue based on a population of 4,286 people and the revenue projections from the North Carolina League of Municipalities revenue estimates for 2020-21.

Paving projects total $74,500, and $10,500 of that will be used from highway fund reserves.

Additionally, a state statute requires that all municipalities rewrite their unified development ordinance by January of 2021, which comes with budgeted expenditures for $60,000. Deal said some of the changes can be conducted in-house, but some of the work will require the town to contract services as it’s a time-consuming practice.

A number of department requests, totaling $308,000, weren’t approved in the proposed budget, including two new police cruisers, new equipment for the fire department, storm water expenses, Parks and Recreation Committee funding, community appearance funds and merit raises for employees.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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