As Raleigh’s suburbs to the south and west continue to grow, their local governments are planning budgets to address their needs.
But some towns are crossing their fingers and hoping new legislation won’t strip them of revenues that would force them to revise their proposed spending plans.
Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Morrisville each plan to spend more in the next fiscal year, which starts in July, than they did this year.
Most of the additional spending in those towns will go toward growth-related issues, such as fixing roads, expanding water and sewer services or adding staff to accommodate a rising demand for town services.
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Only two towns – Cary and Morrisville – are proposing increases to the property tax rate. The towns say each of those proposed hikes was approved by residents or caused by forces outside the town’s control.
But some town leaders say they could be forced to generate revenue through tax or fee increases if the North Carolina General Assembly passes a bill that would aggressively redistribute money generated from sales taxes. State legislators have suggested three plans – Senate Bill 369, Senate Bill 608 and House Bill 518 – for redistributing sales tax revenues.
Now, the bulk of sales tax revenues go back to the counties where the revenues are generated. Population-dense counties such as Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg counties tend to have the most shopping centers, so they receive a large portion of the sales tax revenues.
But some state legislators want to help struggling, rural counties by giving them a greater portion of the sales tax revenues.
Holly Springs leaders recently encouraged residents to express their opposition to one of the redistribution plans, Senate Bill 369, because it could strip the town of about $1.6 million a year starting in 2018. That loss would equate to a 5-cent property tax increase, according to the town.
Morrisville could lose as much as $1.2 million under one of the plans, which roughly equates to a 3.2-cent property tax rate hike.
For now, Morrisville only plans to raise property taxes by 2 cents per $100 valuation to pay for projects voters funded through a bond referendum in 2012.
Cary, meanwhile, plans to raise property tax rates by 3 cents per $100 valuation.
Of the proposed 3-cent increase, 2 cents would pay for debt associated with bonds sold after Cary voters approved a bond referendum in 2012. The additional cent would compensate for the $1.5 million Cary expects to lose next year with the elimination of the privilege tax.
A privilege tax is a tax many state municipalities levy on businesses within their jurisdiction. After some legislators argued that some municipalities abuse the tax by increasing rates, the legislature voted to eliminate the tax starting July 1.
Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Morrisville are moving forward with their budgets as if sales tax redistribution won’t be implemented this year.
Here’s a breakdown of how each town’s budget is shaping up before elected officials approve them this month.
Proposed budget: $295 million, up from $260 million
Highlights: More than $10 million for transportation projects; $900,000 in upgrades to the USA Baseball National Training Facility; and $400,000 for improvements at the WakeMed Soccer Park.
Property taxes: 38 cents per $100 valuation, up from 35 cents
Fees: Solid waste fees would go up $1 per month; transportation development fees would go up an average 10 percent; and water and sewer rates would rise 3.8 percent
Personnel: The budget would add 24 new positions. That includes an animal control officer, a police officer, three firefighters for the new Chatham Street station and customer service representatives in various departments. Despite the increase, Cary’s employee-to-resident ratio will continue to fall. If the council approves the budget, Cary will have 8.1 employees per 1,000 residents – down from the 8.2 ratio this year and the 8.3 ratio last year.
What didn’t make the budget: A $1.2 million project that would remove the medians at the intersection of Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch Road. Council members recently said they want to find a way to fund the project, as well as $75,000 on the town’s first “pocket park” at 601 Kildaire Farm Road and $25,000 on a large shade structure at Ritter Park.
What’s next: Budget work sessions are scheduled Thursday, June 11 at 4:30 p.m. and June 16 at 6 p.m. The budget is scheduled to be adopted June 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Proposed budget: $28.2 million, up from 26.2 million
Highlights: The plan includes $300,000 for road maintenance; $500,000 for sidewalks; $75,000 to buy new signs and conduct outreach related to rebranding efforts.
Property taxes: 41 cents, up from 39 cents, to finish paying off bonds sold after 2012 referendum.
Fees: A change in solid waste pickup, which is funded by property taxes, will save the average taxpayer about $45 a year.
Personnel: No new positions are recommended in the budget.
What didn’t make the budget: No significant large projects are included. “It primarily focused on taking care of things that were already in the pipeline,” Morrisville budget manager Jeanne Hooks said.
What’s next: A public hearing is Tuesday, June 9, with a meeting Tuesday, June 23, to discuss and vote on the budget.
Proposed budget: $43 million, up from $41 million
Highlights: $1 million for road maintenance; $471,000 to build sidewalks on Salem Street and Apex Barbecue Road; $71,000 to design three new greenways; plus new cars, tasers and rifles for the police department; a fire truck; a rescue vehicle; and 20 new “school zone” flashing signs.
Property taxes: 39 cents per $100 valuation, the same as this year
Fees: Electric bills will likely be lower, but the town hasn’t determined how much lower.
Personnel: The town could hire as many as 30 new employees. That includes two EMS paramedics who will be funded by Wake County. Apex would fund as many as 28 new positions, mostly in the police and fire departments. The town would have about 8.9 employees per 1,000 residents.
What didn’t make the budget: At least 23 other requests for new employees from various budgets; replacements for several aging vehicles; $59,000 for a second K9 police officer and K9 vehicle; $75,000 to inspect the dam at Apex Community Park; $15,000 in Segways for police officers; and $11,000 of new chairs for the Town Council.
What’s next: A final budget work session is Tuesday, June 9, at 5 p.m. A public hearing is Tuesday, June 16, at 7 p.m. The board will vote on the budget after that.
Proposed budget: $21.5 million, up from about $18.5 million
Highlights: More than $700,000 for capital projects, including refitting Stars Theater as a town-owned arts center, paving South Street and tennis court resurfacing at Action Park. The town would set aside $1.2 million for projects like a rebranding effort and the installation of fiber cables in some areas.
Property taxes: 38.5 cents per $100 valuation, the same as this year.
Fees: Water and sewer fees will rise by $5.25 per month for the average residential customer, in large part to begin financing an expansion of the town’s water treatment facilities that will likely require additional fee increases in the future.
Personnel: The budget includes 10.5 new full-time positions, including a cultural arts director, two firefighters and two police officers.
What didn’t make the budget: A $175,000 plan to build an outdoor basketball court at South Park will be postponed for a few years because the park will get a new splash pad and new playground equipment this year. The final draft of the budget also doesn’t includeseveral new positions that various departments had requested.
What’s next: There will be a public hearing on the budget Tuesday, June 16, at 7 p.m. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget after that hearing.
Proposed budget: $42.9 million, up from about $39 million
Highlights: The budget includes $1.5 million in capital projects, from a $150 for a new microphone pulley system at the Cultural Center to a new breathing apparatus for the fire department worth $195,000. The budget would also create a fiber optic telecommunications fund for leasing strands of fiber.
Property taxes: 43 cents, the same as this year
Fees: Fees for garbage collection, recycling, yard waste, stormwater, water and sewer rates will stay the same.
Personnel: The budget would add 10 new positions: an accountant, a building code inspector, three firefighters, two park maintenance technicians, a streets technician, an engineering development inspector and a pump station technician.
What didn’t make the budget: Entrance features that would greet incoming commuters at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Sunset Lake Road. Staff couldn’t fit the $175,000 plan in the budget, so they hope to install $25,000 in improvements from the plans and fencing at the intersection instead.
What’s next: A public hearing will be Tuesday, June 16, with the Town Council voting on it that day.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht