Elected officials added a 6 percent tax increase to the town’s new budget at a meeting Tuesday. The new financial plan, revealed that evening, predicts accelerated growth for the town’s income and spending in fiscal 2013.
The town would use the tax money to kick off an $11 million expansion of the town’s parks and recreation system. Natural revenue growth, meanwhile, would allow the government to spend 7.5 percent more money in the year beginning this July compared to the current fiscal year.
The budget would “allow the Town to maintain and improve current service levels while making organizational changes ...” wrote Town Manager Carl Dean.
The town government expects taxes from 600 new residents, rising property values and stronger business performance to buoy 7.6 percent revenue growth. The town expects a modest uptick in construction and continued improvement of its sales-tax numbers.
Some of that money will pay for bonuses of up to 2.5 percent of town employee salaries, and cost-of-living raises worth 2.5 percent of salaries. The manager also suggested the town spend more money on equipment, buildings and utility infrastructure compared to last year.
Close to a million dollars would go to the fire and police departments for a new rescue truck, five police vehicles and the design of a new police building. The spending also includes $1.6 million for the extension of Main Street, $1.4 million for sidewalks, $144,000 to improve Avent Ferry Road and $250,000 for a pedestrian bridge at Bass Lake.
The budget also provides for the hiring of two public works employees, two public-safety civilian employees, and two parks and recreation employees, while eliminating a vacant secretarial position in the manager’s office.
Councilman Chet VanFossen led the vote to add the 2.5-cent-per-$100 valuation to the draft budget, which would increase real estate tax bills by about 6 percent. The hike would add about $830,000 to the town’s coffers this years, which town staff say will allow the town to make debt payments on a multi-year, $11 million expansion of the parks system.
“I believe we need a tax increase to do what we need to do,” VanFossen said as he moved to add the increase to the budget, which goes into effect July 1. Councilman Tim Sack seconded, saying the change would allow the town to see the hike’s effect on the budget.
Councilman Jimmy Cobb provided the third vote for the majority, while councilwomen Cheri Lee and Linda Hunt Williams voted against the change.
“There’s too many people in this city, in this town, hurting,” Williams said. “Our taxes will go up; our prices in our businesses will go up.”
The town council will discuss the budget at a 2 p.m. meeting at Town Hall on Monday. The elected officials must approve the new budget by the end of June.