Clayton News-Star

Clayton adopts budget, hiking water rates, fees

The Clayton Town Council on Monday approved a $51.2 million budget for next year that holds the tax rate steady but doubles base fees and hikes rates for water customers. The budget is an $80,000 decrease in spending over the current year, despite gains in revenue from the property tax and sales tax.

This is Town Manager Adam Lindsay’s first Clayton budget, but many of the decisions affecting next year’s spending were made last year, he said, when the town half-funded a number of full-time positions, which built $1 million into operating costs for the foreseeable future. Those positions will eat up the $1.3 million in additional revenue that Lindsay expects in the coming year, making for a Clayton budget short on bells and whistles for town taxpayers.

“I think one of the bigger stories of this year’s budget was how the current year’s budget impacted us,” Lindsay said. “We added several positions in the budget that were added in January, so that meant half the year’s money was there. This year we had to catch up with a full year’s budget. That took away a lot of the new revenue growth we had seen, but we also weren’t facing a tax-rate increase to make up that difference.”

Clayton added 22 jobs to town hall last year, 13 of which were half-funded for the year. This year Lindsay said he got requests for 14 new positions and recommended adding three, an accountant cut out in the recession, a new number two in the public works department and a field crew supervisor in the electricity department. Together, those jobs add up to around $150,000.

Johnston County, from whom Clayton buys its water, is upping its water rates 6 percent, and Lindsay said the town would be adjusting its rates accordingly. Clayton is also doubling is water base rates from $5 to $10 for in-town residents and $10 to $20 for out-of-town customers.

Clayton held two public hearings this budget season, drawing three speakers in March and none on Monday night when the council passed its budget. The council had until June to approve a budget, but moved ahead this week without further discussion or last-minute changes. This year’s budget lacks many of the moving parts of last year’s proposal, which floated a possible bond referendum and changes to utility fees.

The budget includes more than $400,000 in salary increases for town employees, based on a 2 percent cost-of-living and 1 percent merit raises. This budget also includes about $3.6 million in sewer projects, including expanded service along the Sam’s Branch line north of town. One of the more visible taxpayer purchases for next year will be the $800,000 going to repave Horne and Fayetteville streets downtown.

Here are other notable expenses in the coming budget:

▪  New vehicles worth $745,968.

▪  $35,000 to host next year’s North Carolina Main Street Conference.

▪  Town Hall will get $10,000 worth of cosmetic improvements and the council chambers will get a $37,500 renovation.

▪  $14,000 to pave the 1.5-mile Sam’s Branch trail.

▪  $18,000 to clear land for the East Clayton Community Park disc golf course.

▪  $150,000 for a downtown parking lot.