The proposed budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year would leave property tax rates unchanged in Fuquay-Varina – something of a rarity in a revaluation year.
The town’s rate of 38.5 cents per 100 dollars of appraised property value is already on the lower side for Wake County municipalities, but fast-growing towns will often lower their rate to prevent a sharp tax increase when property values rise. Fuquay-Varina properties saw an overall bump of 2 percent.
Commercial property growth was responsible for nearly all of that uptick, meaning average homeowners won’t see much of a tax increase, if they see one at all, Town Manager Adam Mitchell said. Keeping the rate where it is would net the town an extra $350,000 next fiscal year.
“The residential consumer will not see an increase in their tax bill unless their own property value went up because they have a good piece of property,” he said.
Expenditures from Fuquay-Varina’s two major funds, its general fund and water and sewer fund, will total about $37.1 million next year under the proposed budget, up nearly $7 million from last year’s combined budget of $30.41 million.
Mitchell, who first presented the draft budget May 10, said the primary objectives are to address growth and prepare for more of it.
The budget would add 15 full-time employees to the town’s payroll and increase one part-time employee’s pay to full-time.
“Of those, 12-and-a-half are directly related to growth,” Mitchell said. “We’re seeing staggering and enormous trend in our growth patterns. We’re adding that additional building inspector, an additional staff engineer, and we’re adding to our finance department.”
The budget also calls for the addition of four more positions in both the police and fire departments.
Because the last appraisal took place in 2008, when property values were either at their highest or just starting to slip as the recession took hold, this year’s neutral outlook represents the culmination of an uphill battle to regain the value lost during the financial crisis, mayor pro tem Blake Massengill said.
Water and sewer fees, though, are poised to increase as growing demand pushes the town to expand its service capabilities, specifically the Terrible Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Staff proposed for the base water rate an increase of 19 cents per month to $9.74; users would also pay 9 cents more per thousand gallons of water used. Sewer base rates will climb 50 cents to $13 per month. The recommended budget also would increase the cost of new connections to the town’s water and sewer lines by $500 each.
“People don’t really get excited about that type of thing, but you need it to grow and to have homes,” Commissioner Jason Wunsch said.
The challenge is that the size of the town, in terms of residents and total properties requiring services, went in the opposite direction of the economy during those lean years, and revenues are finally catching up.
Last year’s 725 building permits represented a 61 percent increase over 2014, and 2016 is on pace to outstrip that record by close to 15 percent. Some of that growth pays for itself – the tax base is expected to grow by $100 million to $2.8 billion, and the town anticipates permitting revenues will top $1 million this year for the first time ever.
But with that being the case, there’s also tremendous pressure to address the less lucrative consequences of those new homes and the people who live in them.
“I want to put a laser focus on traffic-related issues,” Massengill said. “We’ve done some of that by getting grants and partnering with the state DOT. The overwhelming majority of citizens who come to us ask us to do something about traffic.”
Mitchell said the town is partnering with the state Department of Transportation to complete some “immediate” improvements to the intersection of Sunset Lake Road and Main Street. The budget would also set aside about $400,000 of town money for maintenance and repaving projects, as well as $270,000 for a new sidewalk connecting the Phillips Pointe neighborhood to Southeast Judd Parkway and Angier Road. The town will also be completing right-of-way acquisition for work on Northeast Judd Parkway.
As proposed, the budget also increases the town’s appropriation for the new arts center by about $1.1 million to $3.1 million. The town board is voting this week on a design for that facility. Mitchell said that increase is expected to be offset by a similar amount that went unspent during the past fiscal year.
A budget work session was scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. before the town board meeting.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan