The Holly Springs Town Council is supporting the town manager’s recommendation to increase water and sewer access fees for fiscal year 2016-17 in preparation for anticipated growth over the next 10 years.
Town Manager Chuck Simmons is recommending an increase to water and sewer monthly access fees totaling $2 per month, or $24 per year. There would be no change in utility user rates.
As part of a $46.2 million budget, Simmons also is recommending a revenue neutral property tax rate of 43.25 cents per $100 valuation – a decrease from this year’s 43.5 cent tax rate.
During a review of the proposed budget Tuesday, the Town Council and staff discussed the importance of planning for future growth.
“We don’t have a choice,” councilman Jimmy Cobb said. “We’ve got to plan 10 years, 15 years down the road, and the little things we do now that make this more doable without raising taxes, it’s absolutely necessary.”
The town now uses some of its water and sewer reserves to pay for related debt and interest. Simmons is proposing the fee increase to reduce the town’s reliance on these reserves so they will be available for unforeseen repairs, as well as facility upgrades and expansions that are needed as utilities age and the town continues to grow.
“A healthy reserve prevents us from having to take on additional debt,” Simmons said. “I feel confident that for the next 10 years we will not have to borrow a dime in our utility fund because we have these reserves in place. To me, that’s effective long-term planning, and that’s what Holly Springs is all about.”
Transportation needs continue to be one of the top priorities among Holly Springs officials and staff as population growth and commuter traffic cause more congestion in town.
Some major road projects, including the Main Street Extension and improvements to the Avent Ferry Road and N.C. 55 bypass intersection, already are underway. Funding already has been committed to widen Avent Ferry Road from N.C. 55 to Piney Grove Wilbon Road to a four-lane, median-divided roadway to reduce traffic congestion.
The draft budget sets aside funding for additional road projects, including street lighting, as well as sidewalks along Main Street, Sunset Lake Road and Sunset Ridge.
It also includes $300,000 for road improvements at Mims Park, a 17-acre site off Avent Ferry Road in downtown. This would fund road widening, sidewalks, curb and gutter and other features.
“This will bring more people downtown every day of the week just to walk around and enjoy it,” Simmons said. “It will be a true amenity downtown.”
A regional stormwater facility to be constructed at the park will serve the site and about 20 surrounding acres. Town staff hope this will encourage more development nearby.
If the Town Council approves the recommended budget, two other much-need projects would be able to move forward – a new public works building and a gymnasium.
Two studies, estimated at $15,000 apiece, likely will be funded this year to address space needs as the town maxes out its public works building and gym space in town.
The 43-person Public Works Department has outgrown its 13,000-square-foot facility. There is limited shelter, shop, office and outdoor space. Some staff members have to share offices, and lunch breaks are staggered because the break room is too small.
“We already have a nice facility,” Assistant Town Manger Daniel Weeks said. “We are just outgrowing it, but it hasn’t lost its use. We just need more space.”
The town has similarly outgrown gym space at Holly Grove Middle School, Holly Ridge Middle School and the W.E. Hunt Recreation Center with practices and games.
The town has about $7.5 million in unissued 2012 parks and recreation bonds that could be used for the project. The Town Council also would need to determine where there is sufficient town-owned land for the project.
“One of the sites we are looking at is behind the (baseball) stadium,” Weeks said.
Holly Springs residents can comment on the proposed budget at a public hearing, which will be at 7 p.m. on June 7 at the Holly Springs Town Hall, 128 S. Main St.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon