Few adjustments proposed for city budget

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 9, 2022

SALISBURY — Aside from a higher increase to the municipal vehicle tax, Salisbury City Council on Tuesday night did not suggest many substantial changes to the proposed 2022-23 fiscal year budget before scheduling a vote to adopt it later this month.

Council met an hour before its regularly scheduled 6 p.m. meeting to discuss the recommended 2022-23 fiscal year budget, which was presented by outgoing interim City Manager Brian Hiatt last month.

The total recommended city-wide budget is $93.38 million, including both general and enterprise funds, and projects a little over $52 million in general fund expenditures. While the budget recommends keeping the same property tax rate of 71.96 cents per $100 valuation, it does include a 4.2% increase in water and sewer rates. That would mean a $2.49 per month increase for the average Salisbury-Rowan Utilities customer. Hiatt told council the increase would only partially offset the rising costs of chemicals needed to treat the water.

Previously, the recommended budget called for raising the municipal vehicle tax from $10 to $20. But during the work session on Tuesday, council discussed raising it to $30, the maximum allowed by the state.

While David Post joked that raising a tax is a “good way to make people hate you,” he said most nearby municipalities charge $30, including Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, Kannapolis and Lexington. Post also pointed to the fact that the increase would generate money needed to cover the rising cost to resurface roads, which is spiking along with the prices of asphalt and other necessary materials. Asphalt prices alone have risen at least 23%, which Hiatt said poses a “challenge” to the city. The $20 municipal vehicle tax increase would generate an additional $240,000 to cover those increased costs. 

“Certainly the more money you have right now, particularly with the price of asphalt, the better off you’d be in terms of the number of streets you can resurface,” Hiatt said.

Alexander said she would be in support of raising the tax to $30, noting that the city needs to have enough money to provide a local match to Powell Bill funding provided by the state. If the city does not have adequate funds to match Powell Bill money, the city could miss out on funding. Hiatt added that Powell Bill funds might not “go as far” this year due to the increased cost of asphalt.

The recommended budget also includes a 25-cent increase in stormwater rates to $4.41 per equivalent residential unit and a “modest” increase in tap fees for new SRU customers. 

Sheffield said she’d like city staff to provide her with a comparison of the fee schedule in the proposed budget to years prior before she’s prepared to vote on the budget later this month. Sheffield told new City Manager Jim Greene Jr. that “if you can accomplish anything, it’s growing our tax base.” By growing the tax base, Sheffield said the council can avoid having to increase taxes.

Only two members of the public commented on the proposed budget during the council’s meetings on Tuesday night. 

DaQuon Del-Rio Coleman said he was concerned about the proposed increase in the water and sewer rates for SRU customers. “I feel like as a local system, our aim and our measure should be to better equip the citizens and not put more pressure on them, as we’re already putting more pressure on them from outside.” Coleman said an increase could force people who are already dealing with rising costs of goods and services to choose between buying food and paying the water bill.

DeeDee Wright, a civil rights leader who lives in Salisbury, said she hopes the budget would support the parks and recreation department and especially the Fred Evans Pool, the city’s only public swimming facility. The proposed budget does recommend using $1.2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for Parks and Recreation, including “short-term updates” to the Fred Evans Pool.

City council will vote on the proposed budget during its meeting at 6 p.m. on June 21. The budget will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year on July 1. The proposed budget is available online at salisburync.gov/recommendedbudget.

In other meeting business:

• New City Manager Jim Greene Jr. took the oath of office. Greene said he’s “thoroughly enjoyed” his first two weeks on the job, adding, “I’ve been trying to get out and meet folks, attend events, and I just want to tell (council) again how grateful I am for the opportunity to work for this city and how much I’m enjoying working with the employees here.”

• Council approved the creation of a Bell Tower Green advisory committee. The purpose of the committee is to promote development of the park, seek sponsorships and donations for the park and to make recommendations for changes in the park, according to parks and recreation Director Nick Aceves. The seven members of the committee have yet to be decided, but they may have a task already: council members conveyed that multiple individuals and organizations have offered to pay for an American flag to be placed in Bell Tower Green. Post said the Salisbury Elks Lodge has offered to pay for a flag pole. Alexander said both Ronnie Smith, who is very involved in the local veteran community, and Steve Fisher, CEO of F&M Bank, have also offered to pay for the installation of an American flag. A posting for applications for the committee will be made soon.

• Council approved a $182,221 contract with Carolina Siteworks for the installation of sidewalk, curb and gutter along Ryan Street from Celebration Drive to Old Concord Road.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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