Approved Landis budget maintains property tax rate, reduces vehicle tax

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 16, 2022

LANDIS — The town board on Monday night approved a 2022-23 fiscal year budget that keeps the property tax rate the same, reduces the municipal vehicle tax and raises employee pay to account for inflation.

The budget was passed unanimously without much comment from board members, since most of the dialogue took place last month when the board met to discuss the document in detail. Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart was not present at the meeting Monday.

The budget totals a little over $13 million, allocating $4.97 million for the general fund, $2.2 million to water and sewer fund, $115,316 to stormwater fund and $6 million to electric fund expenses.

In her budget message, Town Manager Diane Seaford said the budget “shows us the progress we made this year and presents a new year that will be filled with growth and continued improvements.” 

The budget is a 10%, or $1.27 million, increase over the original 2022, but Seaford said half of that increase accounts for a new method of tracking administrative charges across funds, meaning that the budget is really a 5% increase. That increase is attributed to personnel increases of $540,000, almost half of which is for a 5% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and an average merit increase of 3%. For comparison, Rowan County’s proposed budget includes a 9.4% cost of living adjustment and China Grove’s budget has an 8% cost of living increase for town staff.

Seaford said the increase in COLA and merit is needed to retain town employees in a job market in which companies and governments across the country are struggling to fill vacancies.

Not everyone in the town shares her opinion. During public comment on the budget, Landis resident Nadine Cherry said the wage and merit increase is “unacceptable.” She said the town’s decision to increase wages last year didn’t stop employees from leaving. The town’s current turnover rate is 10.4%, excluding retirements, according to Seaford’s budget message. At the same meeting, Public Safety Director Zachary Lechette said there are two vacancies in the police department and one in the fire department.

Cherry was the only citizen to comment specifically on the budget before it was passed.

Along with keeping the property tax rate at 53 cents per $100 valuation, the budget lowers the municipal vehicle tax from $30, the maximum allowed, to $20.

The budget includes three new positions for a total of $149,000, including a new full-time town clerk. Those duties have been shouldered by Amber Levi, the town’s human resources officer, but Seaford said the town is getting too big to not have a dedicated staff member at that position. One new position will be in the street department and one in the water and sewer department. The town will have more than 50 employees next year.

The budget includes a $273,000 increase in capital purchases. The town will use $40,000 for town hall renovations, $30,000 for a Gas Buddy to help track fuel costs for public works, $20,000 to upfit a truck for snow plowing and salt dispersal, $85,000 to purchase a truck for the electric department, $171,000 for a small bucket truck and $26,000 for a forklift.

There is a $105,000 increase for materials across all departments due to inflation, Seaford said.

The town will receive a total of $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, of which $606,509 has already been allocated for nine projects, including a downpayment for a new fire truck, purchase of a new leaf truck, funding for a fellow to help town administration, a water and sewer line camera. Those purchases will be made with budget amendments separate from the overall fiscal year budget.

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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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