Mayor Tom Stevens opened Monday night’s Hillsborough Town Board meeting with a somber acknowledgement of the victims and families of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at the gay bar Pulse in Orlando.
The board then unanimously approved the proposed $22.9 million town budget, a 3.3 percent increase from this year’s operating budget.
The budget includes $9.5 million in the General Fund, an increase of 4.6 percent, and $13.5 million in the Water/Sewer Fund, an increase of 26.9 percent, as well as about $600,000 in expenses in the new Stormwater Utility Fund.
“This year we had no tax increases, with our first priority being to take care of what we already have,” said Town Manager Eric Peterson.
The property tax rate remains at 68 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the fourth consecutive year without an increase.
The owner of a $200,000 home will pay town property tax of $1,360.
According to Peterson, the town’s population is projected to grow by 30 percent over the next few years, with the following projects underway: Cates Creek Apartments, Corbin Creek Woods, Elfin Pond, Forest Ridge, Waterstone Estates and Waterstone Terrace.
“This year’s budget received a lot of attention and was tweaked several times over,” said Stevens. “We received our first draft back in February, and the staff has worked very hard because funding was very very tight.”
Stevens said that the return on new developments has not really started kicking in and that the town is doing a lot of improvements.
“Ten years ago we didn’t even have any parks and our park budget was $350 a year,” Stevens said. “Now we have the River Walk, Gold Park, Turner Patch Park and several others.
“The River Walk is a beautiful and credible amenity that is bringing more people downtown and has boosted our economy.”
Along with the final approval of the 2016-17 budget, the board unanimously approved the new Storm Water Management Utility fee. The new fee will be an annual $75 fee for single family homes, with a 5-tier system for non-residential properties. Fees for non-residential properties will range from $150 to $12,900 annually based on square footage.
Fire Marshall Jerry Wagner addressed the board with an update and further prevention plan for the spread of the Zika virus.
In collaboration with Parks and Recreation, the town has cleared out standing water in parks, daycares, elementary schools, and abandoned lots in Hillsborough and recommends all residents do the same on their own property.
Wagner proposed measures to enact more proactive code enforcement of waste accumulation, junked vehicles and noxious growth of grass and other plants. Wagner also proposed an amendment to the Hillsborough Code of Ordinances to add a chapter on mosquito control.
With over 20 cases of Zika Virus confirmed in North Carolina, Wagner discussed the importance of both prevention and education in Hillsborough and Orange County.
The Zika virus can cause microcephaly – incomplete brain development – in the fetus of an infected mother.
In other business
▪ The town held a public swearing in of newly promoted Sgt. Jason Huey.
▪ They approved the reappointment of Erik Meyers to the Tourism Board and Todd Stabley and Kim Woodell to Parks & Recreation.
▪ The board also reviewed a study for a pedestrian improvement project along N. Churton and Cornelius Street, showing interest in a recommended $800,000 plan that would combine sidewalks and multi-purpose paths on the two proposed streets. No action was taken.
▪ In closed session, the board discussed how to give direction to town staff in regards to negotiating terms for the possible acquisition of the former Colonial Inn at 153 W. King Street. No action was taken.
Picnic in the park
The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough presents its third annual Picnic in the Park event from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, July 4, at River Park on Margaret Lane in downtown Hillsborough. Festivities begin with a community reading of the Declaration of Independence, followed by live music from several local bands including Commanderrs, Fireside Collective, and Magnolia Still. Families can set up their picnic blankets and enjoy lunch from one of many food trucks including Heavenly Smoke, Taco Grande, and The Parlour. Families are also welcome to bring their own food. Hillsborough based nonprofits interested in setting up a booth at this event are encouraged to email Lindsey@historichillsborough.org for an application.