A previous version of this article stated the town council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to accept the 2015-16 budget. As the article stated, one council member was not there. But the town council actually voted 4-0.
The town council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to accept the 2015-16 budget proposal that raises property taxes, pays for new town buildings, parks and sidewalk improvements and restructures the pay system for all employees.
Mayor Pro-tem Ken Marshburn was not at the meeting, but all other council members voted for the budget.
Garner’s current property tax rate is 50 cents per $100 in assessed value. It is among the highest in the county. This year’s $28.4 million budget raises property taxes 1.75-cent per $100 in assessed value. That is the equivalent of a $31.85 increase on the average $181,982 Garner home.
The bulk of the increase goes toward the debt for the $35.7 million bond package that voters approved in 2013. The list of projects includes two dog parks, a new recreation center, renovations to sidewalks, parks and greenways, revitalization of downtown garner, a new police station and town hall.
“In order to do all of that we have to raise the funds to pay back the loan so to speak, and that is what the tax increase is for,” Town Manager Hardin Watkins said.
Some projects have already been completed and some are under construction. Garner’s first dog park, North Garner Dog Park, opened this month. The second and bigger one will be built at Lake Benson and is expected to be finished in the summer of 2016.
The police station is currently under construction and is expected to be finished in August. The new recreation center will start construction at the beginning 2016 and is expected to be finished in June 2017. And town hall is expected to be completed in February 2017.
The budget also includes a 2.5 percent adjustment to the the town’s pay plan. Town officials said they adjusted the plan to make certain positions within the town more competitive with market value.
The restructured pay plan will give employees at the bottom of the pay ladder an opportunity to quickly make more money. And those who have been hitting the pay cap for their jobs could see benefits from the new structure if their supervisor finds their job performance merits an increase.
All employees will be eligible for merit pay raises. The employee salary line item in the budget was bumped up three percent to pay for those raises.
The police department will also receive $9,000 to pay for five new police body cameras for next year.
The town had received very few comments on the budget. In two past meetings, no one showed up to the public hearings for the budget.
The town has made some adjustments to its spending from the first budget meeting, which was initially $28.3 million, including adding some funding for an assistant fire chief for the Garner Fire Department.
“I’m satisfied with the budget that was approved tonight and I think it serves Garner well this upcoming year and I believe good things are ahead of us,” council member Buck Kennedy said.