Salisbury City Council has public hearing for upcoming budget

Published 12:06 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council held a public hearing during its June 4 meeting to receive feedback from residents on the proposed fiscal year 2024-2025 budget that was presented to council on May 14.

Budget Manager Tracey Keyes and Assistant Finance Director Mark Drye started off with a presentation to the city council summarizing the budget’s priorities, key focus areas, important monetary figures, fee adjustments and specific projects for the upcoming fiscal year.

Afterwards, during the public comment period, residents Clyde and Dee Dee Wright spoke out on the water bill fee increases, property tax increases and a lack of ADA sidewalks in the West End neighborhood. 

Acting as an intermediary for Executive Director of Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency, Inc. Dione Adkins, council member David Post talked about the need for more teachers in order to better prepare younger kids before they reach kindergarten age.

Vice President of the Salisbury Professional Firefighters Association Ethan Chirico asked council to raise the cost of living adjustment for all city employees from 1.5 percent to 3 percent. Chirico also said how firefighters are in need of this increase due to health problems related to their job and “lagging pay” compared to other fire departments. 

In regards to the fee increases, Post made a call to action to the public requesting that they participate in budget workshops and come up with solutions to the grievances they mentioned.   

“Be a partner with us,” Post said.

To better explain the role of fee increases, Mayor Karen Alexander called working on the budget a “balancing act” since the city requires a balanced budget surrounding a “finite” amount of funds. Alexander explained it’s these considerations that help keep Salisbury afloat in case there is an unexpected economic decline.

“Whether you pay it in a fee or in a tax, it really doesn’t matter because the outcome is still the same because you have to have the amount of money that’s needed to pay the expenses,” Alexander said. 

After listening to what the public had to say, City Manager Jim Greene said he “understands concerns over any increase” and that played a role when figuring out the budget.

“We’ve worked hard to minimize those increases to make sure we can still provide quality services and address the issues associated with the growing city like focusing on public safety,” Greene said. 

As of now, based on discussions at the meeting, Greene said there will not be an additional budget workshop scheduled for June 11. According to Greene, the Salisbury City Council will “evaluate the comments” made on Tuesday night and ask city staff questions to devise any necessary changes to the budget before it is brought back for final approval on June 18.