If town leaders approve a proposed 2.5-cent increase, Clayton’s property-tax rate would be among the highest in the Triangle.
The proposed rate, 55 cents per $100 of property valuation, would be the second-highest among eight towns Clayton compares itself to: Smithfield, Wake Forest, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Apex, Morrisville and Fuquay-Varina.
“It looks bad,” said Town Manager Steve Biggs, who proposed the rate hike.
However, he said, the tax rate is but one way to compare towns. Total tax burden is another.
For example, under the town manager’s proposal, Clayton would have a higher property-tax rate than Wake Forest – 55 cents vs. 52 cents. However, the owner of a median-priced home in Clayton would pay less in property taxes than one in Wake Forest, according to an analysis Biggs performed.
His figures showed that the burden on a median-priced home in Clayton would be $937, compared to $1,338 in Wake Forest. Land and home values tend to be higher in Wake County than in Johnston.
Biggs also sorted the comparable towns by levy, or how many total dollars the property tax generates. Even with the proposed increase, Clayton ranked third-lowest at about $7.8 million, according to the analysis.
And when he sorted them by how much each cent on the tax rate would generate, Clayton also ranked third-lowest at about $160,000. Apex, with a current tax rate of 39 cents per $100 of valuation, would bring in about $437,000, or the most money out of the comparable towns.
“Apex gets darn near half-a-million dollars for each of those 39 cents,” Biggs said. “You start to understand how they have a 39 cent tax rate, because each cent generates a whole lot of money.”
Some of the towns included in Biggs’ analysis are larger than Clayton, which could drive up some of the numbers.
In addition, Biggs said he didn’t factor each towns’ level of service into the analysis. However, he said Clayton operates a library and fire department while some others don’t.
The proposed tax increase, which would generate an extra $400,000 in revenue, would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $50 more a year.
Clayton resident Jacqueline Jones said $50 might not seem like much, but some families don’t have the extra money.
Jones, a senior-housing liaison considering a run for Town Council, said she works with elderly residents who are on fixed budgets.
“As hard as people are working these days to support their families, I just don’t think going to the taxpayers is the way to go,” Jones said.
Biggs has said town government needs the tax hike mostly to cover rising health-insurance costs and to offset the loss of privilege-license fees formerly paid by businesses.
The budget also includes about $227,000 for employee raises recommended in a recent pay study, $250,000 for a window-replacement project at The Clayton Center and a $325,000 final payment on a fire engine.
Jones questioned some of the other planned expenditures, including $20,000 to pave the parking lot at the town’s dog park on Glen Laurel Road and $29,696 to install an LED lighting system in The Clayton Center auditorium.
“It seems like all the things proposed in this budget, the vast majority is a want versus a direct need,” Jones said.
“There’s too much fluff and not enough, ‘We need this,’” she added.
A tax-rate history
After countywide property revaluation in 2004, the town reduced its rate sharply, from 61 cents to 49 cents per $100 of valuation. Town leaders upped the rate by 5 cents in 2006.
Another revaluation in 2012 led town leaders to reduce the rate again to the current 52.5 cents.
Councilman Michael Grannis said town leaders had a chance to pad the tax rate after revaluations but chose not to.
“When I look at it from that vantage point, I think we saved the citizens quite a bit of money over the past three or four years,” Grannis said.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at The Clayton Center.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104
What: A public hearing on the Town of Clayton’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
Where: The Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St., Clayton.
When: During a regular meeting of the Clayton Town Council at 6:30 p.m. June 1.