Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen approves budget with 3-cent tax increase

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2022

GRANITE QUARRY — The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen met Thursday morning for continued discussion on the town’s budget and voted to raise the tax rate of 41.75 cents to 44.75 cents per $100 of property valuation. Three members voted for the hike while two members opposed it.

A significant factor in this decision comes from the need for funds to keep the joint police authority with Granite Quarry and Faith. According to Town Manager Larry Smith, the first thing to look for when contracting a joint agreement with another town is the cost of service to cover the area. Agreement costs are based on a population to officer ratio.

The 2022-23 budget for the Granite Quarry Police Department totals to $910,616. That includes operational costs such as fuel, staff and purchasing equipment. Faith’s budget includes $146,588 for the joint police.

Mayor Pro Tem John Linker said his concern focuses on the service levels between the two towns. “Everything is in Granite Quarry’s name. We bear the burden of funding everything,” he said. “I just want to make sure that everything’s included and that it’s fair. We all need to be comfortable with the service level of 146 (thousand dollars). The rest of it’s in Granite.”

Mayor Brittany Barnhardt also made it clear that Granite Quarry, not Faith, would be responsible for such costs as vehicles.

Alderman Doug Shelton pointed out that $146,588 is a “substantial chunk” — or 57.26% — out of the Faith final budget of $256,000. Barnhardt noted that 25% of its own 2022-23 budget goes to the same department.

The board read a breakdown compiled by Smith noting fuel and supply costs are going to increase.

“The real question is are we going to stay with the 3 cent increase or not,” Alderman Jim Constantino asked. “If we’re not going to stay with the 3 cents then we need to find something to cut.” For every cent that’s reduced, the budget would be cut back by $27,361.

Apart from the police, the fire department is looking at an increase due to turnout gear costs going up. The budget for equipment went from $21,000 to $30,000.

When the time came to vote on the budget, some board members expressed more concerns.

“The issue that’s facing this town right now is fuel, salaries, environmental, PD issues in Faith, tax rate and I don’t know where this is going to end at,” Alderman Kim Cress said. “We’re going down a rabbit hole. Larry has done a fantastic job on this budget but it seems like instead of working our way up, we’re looking at ways to drop.”

The first vote for tax increase was at an even 44 cents. Constantino and Linker voted in favor of this rate, but Barnhardt, Cress and Shelton voted against it. Barnhardt asked for a motion to settle at 44.75 cents. Shelton and Constantino voted in agreement of that with her, while Cress and Linker opposed. With a 3-2 vote, the motion carried to raise the tax rate by 3 cents.

With the amount confirmed, the board made a unanimous vote in favor to approve the 2022-23 fiscal year budget.