Voters will have the opportunity this November to address one of the main concerns for many in town – traffic congestion. The fix, though, could result in a nearly 7-cent property tax increase.
The Fuquay-Varina town board voted unanimously Monday night to put a $26 million bond referendum on the general election ballot this fall.
Of that, $21 million would go toward roadwork to complete Judd Parkway and improve the flow of traffic on Main Street and several of its intersections.
Another $5 million would go toward expanding water and sewer lines into unincorporated areas, which officials say will ensure that new residential and commercial development is on land that can be annexed into town limits – thus providing Fuquay-Varina with a larger tax base.
The $5 million for utilities, if approved, would be paid for entirely by fees levied on new development, Town Manager Adam Mitchell said, with no tax hikes or fee increases expected to be needed.
The $21 million traffic plan, though, could result in a property tax increase of nearly 7 cents per $100 in valuation. Fuquay-Varina currently has the second-lowest property tax rate in Wake County, at 38.5 cents.
“It could result in as much as a 6.75 cent tax increase,” Mitchell said Monday, before a sparsely attended public hearing began. “However, I want to talk about that because there are a number of mitigating factors that could and most likely will reduce that tax increase.”
For example, Fuquay-Varina has been lobbying U.S. congressional leaders for a transportation subsidy known as a TIGER Grant. That grant could pay for half, or even more, of the biggest scheduled project – the completion of the Judd Parkway loop.
That alone could be worth 2 or 3 cents on the tax rate, Mitchell said.
He also noted that the town typically uses conservative estimates on future revenues, that sales tax revenues have been trending upward, and that a countywide property revaluation conducted in January 2016 will probably result in more tax revenue for the town.
All of those factors, Mitchell said, make the 6.75 cent increase a worst-case scenario that is likely to end up being significantly lower in the end.
With a 6.75 cent increase, the average homeowner would pay an extra $140 a year, said Commissioner Blake Massengill.
“If you boil this down to a weekly basis, it is $3 a week, and I believe most citizens would think that is worth it,” Massengill said.
Mitchell and Mayor John Byrne also have been lobbying legislators in Raleigh to get more funds from the legislature.
The roads Fuquay-Varina are tackling in this proposed bond are state-owned roads and are technically not the town’s responsibility to address.
But traffic jams are getting worse, and the N.C. DOT is chronically short on funding, Byrne said, so he thinks taking responsibility through the bond is the right thing to do.
Several commissioners also said the state has dropped the ball, and Fuquay-Varina has no choice but pick up the slack.
“This is a burden the state legislature has put on our citizens by not putting in the funding they should,” Ed Ridpath said.
In an interview after the meeting, Byrne said the town board could have approved most, if not all, of this spending without asking for a bond. But because a potential tax increase is involved, he said, leaders want to make sure voters have the final call.
Three people spoke at Monday’s public hearing. Walter Kauffman said he doesn’t like the bond and would try to convince his neighbors in the Ballentine subdivision to vote against it.
Kauffman frequently speaks about traffic problems at town meetings, particularly in regards to Sunset Lake Road. Even though the bond would address Sunset Lake Road, he said he is opposed to it because the town doesn’t already have details on the types of stop lights and other possible features that might be built.
“So you’re asking me for my money first, without a plan?” he asked.
Town officials said it doesn’t make sense to pay for such detailed designs before they know whether construction will be funded.
“We’re not trying to trick anybody,” Byrne said, promising to try to convince Kauffman and those who might be skeptical of the proposal.
Come November, Byrne said, he hopes the bond will pass.
He and other town officials will be making the rounds to local civic groups to explain the bond. They’re also starting to create a web page with information, conducting outreach on social media and meeting with influential residents to share their vision.
“The number one thing the community is focused on right now is traffic,” Byrne said. “So we’ve come up with a plan to deal with what people want. And it’s not a short-term fix. This is a long-term plan.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
What’s in the bond?
$21 million for traffic projects includes:
- $12.75 million to build Northwest Judd Parkway
- $2.9 million to widen intersection at Main Street and Judd Parkway
- $4.65 million to widen intersection at Main Street and Sunset Lake Road
- $700,000 for miscellaneous roadwork
$5 million for utilities includes:
- $600,000 for water lines on Hilltop Needmore Road
- $550,000 for water lines on Old Mills Road
- $1.25 million for water lines on Lake Wheeler and Donny Brook roads
- $1.3 million for sewer lines in the Five Points area where U.S. 401, N.C. 42 and N.C. 55 intersect
- $1.3 million for miscellaneous water and sewer projects