Clayton News-Star

Clayton approves budget with tax hike

Clayton residents will pay higher taxes and water and sewer rates starting July 1.

On Monday, the Clayton Town Council unanimously approved its 2015-16 budget, increasing the tax rate by 2.5 cents to 55 cents per $100 of property valuation. The increase will cost the owner of a $200,000 home $50 more next year.

Town leaders say they need the tax increase mostly to offset higher health-insurance premiums and the loss of privilege-license fees. The new rate will bring in about $400,000 more in property tax revenue.

The town also increased water and sewer rates, a change that will cost an average customer about $1.80 more a month, or about $22 more a year.

Clayton staffers say the utility hike will ensure the town can pay off projects financed with revenue bonds. In addition, Town Manager Steve Biggs said the rate hikes will pay for the increasing costs of sludge disposal, odor control and long-term maintenance.

Total spending will tally close to $45 million, about $4 million more than in 2014-15.

A couple of residents opposed the town’s tax hike at a public hearing earlier this month. Beyond that, Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod said he hasn’t heard any negative feedback about the budget.

“What I have heard is that in order to continue the great level of service we offer, people are OK with paying a little higher taxes,” McLeod said.

McLeod said he does think the tax increase will have a financial impact on some families. But he said he’s proud the town staff was honest in asking for what the town needs.

“They didn’t ask for more than what we need; they just asked for what we need,” McLeod said.

Items in the budget include:

▪  Ten new full-time positions: administrative support for the public information office; a human resources generalist; a warehouse agent (restoring an old position); a utility-billing specialist; a development-services coordinator for the Planning Department; an athletic coordinator for Parks and Recreation; a utility-maintenance mechanic; an electric line-technician; a librarian; and planning-administration support. The town was still compiling the total cost at press time.

▪  About $217,000 more for health insurance for employees next year.

▪  About $227,000 for raises for certain employees. A pay study the town commissioned last year recommended the raises. The budget also includes a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for all employes, which will cost an extra $130,000, and a bonus program for employees that will cost $100,000.

▪  A greenway from the Clayton Community Center on Amelia Church Road to downtown. The town will use a grant to pay for 80 percent of the $1 million project. The town’s share, about $207,692, will come from Clayton’s open space fund.

▪  An 18-space parking lot between The Clayton Center and Horne Memorial United Methodist Church on Second Street. The project is estimated to cost $50,000.

▪  A $35,000 car for the Clayton Police Department’s new parks officer.

▪  Replacing police radios, $109,050.

▪  Making the final payment on a fire engine, $325,418.

▪  Adding four automated external defibrillators at town-owned buildings, $6,400.

▪  A $31,000 remote lighting system at Clayton Community Park.

▪  Installing an LED lighting system in The Clayton Center auditorium, $29,696.

▪  Spending about $250,000 on equipment and vehicles for public works.

▪  Adding snow-removal equipment, $30,000.

▪  Making emergency improvements to the former Clayton Town Hall, $29,000.

▪  Spending about $250,000 on a window-replacement project at The Clayton Center. The budget also includes $38,000 for roof repair at The Clayton Center.

▪  Implementing a manhole-rehabilitation project for $83,250.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104