Wendell may have been hesitant to raise taxes on residents, passing a $5,529,928 budget with the same property tax rate as the past two years, but the town is ready to put money toward much-needed improvements in this coming fiscal year.
Wendell’s property tax will remain at 49 cents per $100 valuation. It’s about $857.50 a year for an owner of the average-priced Wendell home, at $175,000.
The town’s rate is higher than Knightdale’s 43 cents, but still lower than Zebulon’s 52.5 cents per $100 valuation rate.
Zebulon adopted that tax rate (the same as the previous year) on June 18 along with an $8,214,078 budget for fiscal year 2014-15. It was a 2 percent decrease from the current fiscal year.
Water rates in Wendell, however, will go up to keep up with increases by the City of Raleigh. A 5 percent increase will mean the average Wendell home will spend about $84.55 a month on water and sewer fees, totaling $1,014.60 a year.
It’s the second-highest dollar amount in the county, behind Zebulon.
Wendell is planning to spend some money on special projects though, by using money in the fund balance.
Fund balances are revenues towns can legally appropriate for the coming budget year. Town policy requires that the town keeps 40 percent’s worth of the previous year’s expenditures in the fund balance to be prepared for the coming fiscal year.
Even with $125,000 dedicated to projects such as town hall improvements and a marquee sign, the town still has about 44 percent in its fund balance.
Extra revenue, extra costs
The town felt comfortable using money from the fund balance since it did not have to dip into the fund this past year.
Town Manager Teresa Piner told the Board of Commissioners at a board meeting last week that this year there were several sources of unexpected revenue such as privilege licenses and DMV collection fees. However, much of that revenue won’t happen again.
But there was an increase in sales tax in the town, something that Piner said town staff hopes will be a new trend.
“We hope that’s an indication the economy is turning around,” she said.
Even with the extra revenue, the town had to pay for unexpected costs, like replacing a heating system at the community center, snow removal and legal fees, which Piner said the town should expect to see as a new regular cost.
“As development occurs, we’re going to have legal fees,” she said.
Wendell’s steady tax rates don’t mean everything is perfect with the town’s budget, though.
According to Piner in a memo accompanying the budget, there are “more needs ... than there are revenues,” she wrote.
She said there weren’t enough funds to pay for some other town operations, including road repairs as identified in a 2011 Street Resurfacing Report, unexpected equipment costs, police vehicles and the maintenance and repair of town facilities.