The initial draft of Fuquay-Varina’s 2015-16 budget includes 10 new employees, close to $1 million to lay the groundwork for high-speed Internet and nearly a half-mllion dollars to round out a new branding campaign.
More public discussions are expected this spring and summer before the Fuquay-Varina Board of Commissioners votes on the budget.
The draft budget, which was presented May 5, doesn’t include any tax increases, but at $21.4 million, it is about $1 million more than this year’s budget.
Mayor John Byrne said he wants the town to do as much as possible without unnecessary risks or tax increases.
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“We want to be conservative, but we want to be active,” he said. “I think it behooves us to be as active as we can be.”
The tax rate in the proposed budget would remain at 38.5 cents per $100 valuation.
Fuquay-Varina also could also ask residents to vote on a bond referendum in November to finish Northwest Judd Parkway and other roadwork, Town Manager Adam Mitchell said. That bond could require a tax hike, depending on how much money is included.
“If I had to look at one of the issues that’s the No. 1 issue, not only in Fuquay-Varina but all the southern (Wake County) towns, it’s transportation,” Byrne said. “In some cases we’re probably better off than other towns, but we do have our own problems to solve.”
Mitchell said a local roads bond is a sure thing, whereas federal transportation bonds are notoriously competitive. And he doesn’t expect the N.C. Department of Transportation to be able to help with its own growing workload.
“We’re not just going to sit back and wait for the state to complete projects,” he said.
The town already has approved plans to move forward with widening two Main Street intersections at Judd Parkway and Sunset Lake Road.
The draft 2015-16 budget includes some smaller transportation projects, including beautification of streets and sidewalks downtown and paving Southern Street, near Lincoln Heights Elementary School.
There’s also a small amount of funding to study bike-friendly projects.
But the most important parts of the draft budget, Mitchell said, aren’t involved with transportation. Rather, they’re efforts to keep up with growth and bolster economic development efforts.
The $750,000 he suggested spending on infrastructure for fiber cables – in hopes of landing an Internet provider such as Google Fiber or AT&T UVerse – could help recruit new businesses in the future, Mitchell said.
Fuquay-Varina wasn’t one of the Triangle towns selected to get Google Fiber, but nearby towns Garner, Cary and Raleigh were. Other towns that didn’t get Google Fiber are talking about the same kind of work Mitchell proposed.
“We don’t want to be left behind the eight-ball here in Fuquay-Varina,” he said. “We want to be as competitive as everyone else.”
Part of being competitive is also having a good brand, Mitchell said, which is why his budget includes $400,000 to round out a rebranding project the town already spent $90,000 getting started.
“It’s been over 20 years since we’ve had a brand change, a new face for the community,” he said. “And we’re in a different time and era now.”
Most of the 10.5 new full-time positions Mitchell has proposed adding are tied to growth, Mitchell said. The half-time position proposed would bring a part-time employee to full-time.
All town employees also will get a 2-percent raise, which Mitchell said is for cost-of-living increases.
There’s also the new position of cultural arts director who will oversee the new arts center. The arts center will be in the Stars Theater, which the town voted to buy the night before the budget was presented.
Other new staff positions include two police officers, two firefighters and employees in other various departments.
A new building inspector is included to help create a more efficient environment for developers.
The town is on pace to issue 561 building permits for new homes this fiscal year, Mitchell said, compared to 499 last year and 235 four years ago.
That growth in homes is a big part of how the town can increase its budget without raising tax rates. Property taxes provide $9.6 million, or nearly half the town’s $21.4 million budget. Sales taxes are the next-highest earner, at $4 million.
However, the town could lose some of that revenue if the General Assembly passes a bill that would redistribute sales tax income to rural areas.
The town already lost $40,000 in annual revenue when the General Assembly did away with business privilege licenses.
While residents won’t see a tax hike in this budget, they could see an increase in their water bills. The town is planning to expand a sewer plant to accommodate new homes and businesses, which would be paid for by raising water rates.
The details haven’t been finalized.
“I think that our sewer treatment plant is a big deal to us,” Byrne said. “And we’re going to have to deal with that, because that affects our growth and how we move forward.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran