China Grove budget proposal includes six-cent tax increase

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

CHINA GROVE — Town officials reviewed a budget on Tuesday for the upcoming fiscal year that will result in a six-cent tax increase. However, the council voted to postpone officially voting for the budget due to a publicized typo on the budget that was corrected before the meeting.

Mayor Rodney Phillips said the postponement was in the interest of transparency to give residents plenty of time to review the correct budget.

The budget, as presented on Tuesday, would result in a six-cent tax increase from .50 to .56 per $100 valuation.

Town Manager Franklin Gover said on Tuesday that the median home value is $165,000. At the previous rate, an annual property tax bill would be $825. At the new rate, that same home’s annual property tax bill would be $924, representing an increase of $99.

Each penny represents approximately $52,000 additional on the tax levy.

According to a memo from Gover, the general fund budget is proposed as balanced at $5,954,400.

That budget appropriates $115,000 in fund balance for nonrecurring capital costs and projects.

The proposed budget includes several items such as a four percent cost of living adjustment, purchase and outfitting of two police vehicles, matching funds for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, new flooring, chairs and tables for the community building and replacement playground equipment for Westhaven Park on Mitchell Avenue.

“We adopted our first-ever strategic plan in February,” Gover said. “This is the first budget that has the strategic plan priorities considered. We have about $1 million allocated towards those priorities.”

Gover indicated that the budget process was long, collaborative and thorough this year.

“Looking at departmental requests, there was well over $1 million in requests,” Gover said. “They were all reasonable.”

Gover mentioned that the largest expenditures are within public safety, such as the new police vehicles.

Councillor Don Bringle spoke up and said that initial projections appeared to warrant a greater increase.

“Once we began the process, they were talking 8 cents, and we had about three meetings on that,” Bringle said. “We drew a line in the sand. We trimmed it down to six cents.”

That required dipping into the town’s fund balance.

“Personally, I think we should have gone into it further, but staff feels comfortable with what we did,” Bringle said. “Knowing the growth we are expecting to have, we are going to need the increased staff. Kudos to staff and the amount of time we spent on this.”

Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Starnes added that trying to prioritize needs can be difficult.

“When you start to look at the needs of a town, everyone thinks the town has unlimited funds,” Starnes said. “But we are talking about actually pieces of equipment that we need to respond to a fire or for law enforcement or for emergency services.

“For me, I was all about let’s approve it all. I wanted to approve more but I knew that we as a team had to be responsible with the tax increase for the town … Just a heads up we have alot of needs coming up and we have to be ready to pay for that stuff. We have to figure out how we are going to make it work with the growth in the near future.”

For his part, Council member Arthur Heggins said they left no stone unturned as they explored capping the possible tax increase.

Similarly, Mayor Rodney Phillips thanked town staff and the council.

“Everyone up here has worked hard,” Phillips said. “We went through this exhaustive exercise of doing multiple meetings. Thanks to the staff who did a great job.”

Due to the typo mentioned earlier, the budget ordinance will officially be read at a special called meeting on June 18 at 6 p.m. in town hall.

Council member Cheryl Sheets urged China Grove residents to take a look at the version that is posted online so that they can be knowledgeable about the expected changes.

“I encourage you to look at and review the budget posted online to see how things are done,” Sheets said. “It is really good to have some text and explanations to go with the budget numbers.”

A draft of the budget proposal is viewable on the town’s website,