Cary News

Morrisville approves road-focused budget

Residents will see a property tax increase, employees will get a raise, and roads will receive added attention in Morrisville’s 2015-16 budget.

The Town Council passed the $27.6 million budget with a unanimous vote. The budget had few sizable new projects, despite the tax increase, and largely focused on completing projects already in the works or putting money toward planning for the future.

Mayor Mark Stohlman praised the town’s spending on a new transportation plan, as well as funds to make routine road repairs around town.

“I’m very glad we’re investing heavily on the transportation side of things,” Stohlman said. “From the citizen survey, that was the No. 1 thing they wanted us to do.”

A survey of local residents this Spring found that nine out of 10 people thinks road work is Morrisville’s top priority.

The budget includes $300,000 for road maintenance, $500,000 to design new road projects, $150,000 to update the transportation plan and $100,000 for sidewalks.

“I believe that we can be a place where traffic runs smoothly, and residents can walk or bike to nearby parks and recreation or retail centers,” said councilman TJ Cawley.

Cawley added that he hopes Morrisville continues to invest in itself, with bonds and other measures.

The new budget, which takes effect July 1, is 5 percent larger than last year’s $26.2 million budget. The town lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the General Assembly’s elimination of business privilege licenses, but revenue was still up due to significant growth as well as a 2-cent property tax increase.

That tax increase, from 39 cents to 41 cents per $100 in valuation, is the second installment in a two-part tax hike that voters approved in 2012 to pay for a $20 million bond project.

While Stohlman singled out the budget’s focus on transportation, other council members said they are proud that the budget gives an average raise of 2 percent to town staff, as well as pays for street lights and crosswalks.

“We’re taking care of our employees, our greatest asset,” said Mayor Pro Tem Liz Johnson.

Council member Vicki Scroggins-Johnson said the budget represents “an investment in the safety of our school children and pedestrians.”

Council member Steve Rao called attention to future spending needs. He said the town needs to be more open to charging a separate fee for trash pickup instead of funding it with property taxes.

He also said Morrisville is finishing up an internal technological assessment and should consider setting aside money in the future for open data applications and other technological tools.

After the meeting, Rao said the town needs to lobby the state about revenue cuts – including the $800,000 annually in privilege license revenue Morrisville already lost – and the additional money the town could lose if a sales tax redistribution bill passes.

“We can only hope that the governor and the General Assembly will find replacement revenue and will not cut into our sales tax revenue, which may be considered next year,” Rao wrote in an email.

Several sales tax redistribution bills are up for discussion. Morrisville officials estimate that depending on which one passes – if any – the town could lose between $950,000 and $1.2 million a year by 2019-20.

Correction: A previous version of this story contained inaccurate financial data.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran