The Town of Archer Lodge won’t have to increase property taxes to spend more money next year.
The town’s proposed budget for 2015-16 keeps the tax rate at 15 cents per $100 valuation of property, the lowest rate in Johnston County. The tax rate has been the same since the town incorporated in 2009.
Total spending is expected to increase slightly in the next fiscal year, to nearly $840,000. New line items include money for animal control and a part-time town manager.
Johnston County had provided animal control for the town of about 4,400 people but stopped doing so on Jan. 1. Archer Lodge plans to contract with the Town of Clayton for animal control and has budgeted about $18,000 to pay for equipment and service calls.
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Archer Lodge Mayor Mike Gordon said the town is drafting an animal-control ordinance that Clayton’s officer can use to police violations. “We will hope to have that in place sooner than later,” Gordon said.
Archer Lodge’s budget also includes $25,000 for a part-time manager. Councilman Carlton Vinson said the town is one of the largest in the state that operates without a professional administrator.
Vinson said he’s not sure if the town will hire a part-time manager in the coming year, but ongoing projects like a proposed Archer Lodge Park will require more staff time, he said.
The town is seeking a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to help buy land for a park near the corner of Wendell and Wall roads. The park will feature ball fields, tennis courts and walking trails, according to a preliminary design.
Archer Lodge has gotten help with the park thus far from C.L. Gobble, a former full-time town manager who now does contract work and interim stints with towns needing administrative help. Vinson said the town might ask Gobble for more of his time, or the council could hire someone new.
“We’ve just reached the point where we really need somebody to oversee that on a regular basis,” Vinson said of the park project.
“It might be a couple days a week just to come in, making sure everything is running OK, keeping track of everything and going from there,” Vinson added.
The $150,000 state grant Archer Lodge is seeking would require a dollar-for-dollar match from the town. Gordon said the town would likely pay for the match with savings. The town has put away $50,000 annually for several years for capital projects.
But the grant would pay only for the park land. Money to build the ball fields and tennis courts will have to come from somewhere else.
“At some point in time, we are going to have to look at other ways to get some revenue,” Vinson said. “That kind of speaks for itself in a lot of ways, but that will be down the road.”
When asked if he was referring to a tax increase, Vinson said town residents have indicated they want more recreation options and “as the old saying goes, ‘Nothing is for free.’”
“We want to see exactly what our expenses will be,” Vinson said. “We have gone seven years and not had to raise anything. That’s not going to last forever.”
The town will allocate $25,000 next fiscal year for design fees for the new park.
The Archer Lodge Community Center, a nonprofit across from Town Hall, has historically handled recreation for the town. Archer Lodge will give $55,000 to the community center for its services next year, according to the proposed budget.
The proposed budget also includes $50,000 for parking lots on the south and north sides of Town Hall near the corner of Archer Lodge and Buffalo roads.
The budget does not include any funding for a veterans’ memorial that a committee broke ground on last month. The town hopes to pay for some of the memorial through donations, but Councilman Mark Wilson said Archer Lodge will have to contribute as well.
“We as a Town Council have to make a decision,” said Wilson, who sits on the Archer Lodge Veterans’ Memorial Committee. “There has to be some commitment other than verbal commitments.”
Gordon, the mayor, said he is sure the town will spend money on the memorial. But it’s better to allocate dollars in six months, he said, after the town knows the tally from private fundraising.
To raise money, the memorial committee is selling bricks that can be inscribed with the names of families, veterans and businesses.
“I’m not asking you to put money on the line right now, but wanted to make everyone aware that we can’t build this memorial based on fundraising from bricks,” Wilson said. “We will get to a point where those sales will level out.”
The town will hold a public hearing on its budget at the council’s June meeting.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104