Eastern Wake News

Wendell’s proposed budget features some upgrades, but ‘doesn’t cover many of the needs’

Wendell staff wants to purchase the building the police department has been renting for a headquarters on South Pine Street.
Wendell staff wants to purchase the building the police department has been renting for a headquarters on South Pine Street. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

The town manager here hinted at the need for a bond referendum to pay for capital projects, but that poll won’t take place this year.

For the fiscal year that starts July 1, staff is recommending a $7.3 million budget that includes improved yard waste collection and a more permanent police station. It also calls for several improvements at Wendell Park.

Beyond those upgrades, the proposed spending plan has little more room for capital projects.

“We think it’s a very balanced budget, but it doesn’t cover many of the needs that the community still has,” Town Manager Teresa Piner said before a public hearing on the budget Monday. “Some of those (needs) include planning tools and guides that we need to be preparing for, as we are a growing community. ... We anticipate that in the future, with the demands, that we will have to look at a bond referendum.”

Staff plans to keep the current property tax rate of 49 cents per $100 of assessed value. At that rate, a resident in a home valued at $150,000 would pay $735 in town taxes. In Wendell, however, the town does not provide fire services like other Wake County municipalities do.

Instead, Wake imposes a fire district tax of almost 10 cents per $100 of assessed valued for the fire protection it provides. That means Wendell residents should consider their tax rate closer to 58 cents per $100 of assessed value when comparing the town’s rate to those in other Wake towns.

Budget preparers delayed about $600,000 in staff and equipment requests before presenting a first draft to the town board May 8. They managed to retain 2.5 percent cost-of-living increases for employees.

Four new full-time positions would be staggered in over the fiscal year: a police officer and three public works employees. The public works staff has decreased by one position over the past nine years, while the department’s demands have increased, staff says

“We’ve done quite well with the existing staff, but unfortunately, we’ve become more reactive than proactive in maintaining and being on top of a number of things, “ Public Works Director Alton Bryant said earlier in the budget season. “We do a lot of things, but not all of them are done well.”

Included in the nearly $500,000 worth of equipment staff wants to finance over five years is a $170,000 leaf truck for public works.

Staff also wants to finance $1.1 million for building purchases and improvements over 10 years, including the $400,000 purchase of the building the police department is currently renting for its headquarters on South Pine Street.

At Wendell Park, the spending plan would pay for a new outdoor walking surface, new playground equipment, a new field, a scoreboard, wall-mounted basketball goals, and new outdoor volleyball and tennis courts.

The only person to speak during Monday’s hearing was a representative of InterAct – a Raleigh-based support agency for domestic violence and sexual assault victims – who was there to thank the town for its expected $1,000 support.

The proposed budget can be found online at nando.com/4sc. The town board is expected to take action on the recommendation on June 12.