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Small towns hold line on property tax

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Ten small towns in The Wilson Times’ readership area represent nearly $23.5 million in budgets for fiscal year 2017-18.

Only one board approved a change to the property tax rate, and it is a 10-cent decrease.

Sharpsburg — which straddles Wilson, Edgecombe and Nash counties — reduced its tax rate from 65 cents to 55 cents per $100 in property valuation to reflect a shifted burden for fire protection. The counties will begin levying 10 cents per $100 valuation on town properties beginning July 1, leaving the town to zero out the nearly $67,000 usually allocated to the department.

The tri-county town carries the largest budget of the 10 towns at almost $5.7 million while Sims sports the smallest budget of communities in the readership area with less than $300,000 used to run the town.

Sharpsburg

Town Administrator H. Blake Proctor prepared a $5,692,906 budget, which was approved on June 6 and reflected a 4.6 percent decrease from the previous fiscal year. In his message to the town Board of Commissioners, he described the budget as a “bare-bones, hold-the-line budget that also meets all the needs of not only our citizens, but our operating departments as well.”

The N.C. Utilites Commission authorized Duke Energy Progress to pass along the costs associated with coal ash spill cleanup, adding $225,000 to the town’s expenses, but Proctor said the bill will be paid in December with the town switching electric providers in January from Duke to Kings Mountain-based NTE Energy.

“The decreases in average power costs are anticipated to be double-digit in the long term; therefore, while the town will bear the expense of the coal ash charges, as soon as these costs are recovered, we will be able to lower our rates,” Proctor said in his budget message.

The town did not raise water or sewer rates, but officials are planning several significant capital expenses for the year. Sharpsburg is replacing two police patrol vehicles that are out of service, a non-operational pole truck and a 28-year-old dump truck as well as adding a new backhoe to the town’s fleet.

Other significant expenses include several retention incentives for town employees, including a $1,900 bonus to the finance officer — an additional role Proctor fills — and between $1,000 and $3,000 bonuses for police officers.

Stantonsburg

In May, the Town Council was presented with a $4,295,200 budget for next fiscal year, which reflects a $335,450 decrease from 2016-17.

Stantonsburg’s property tax rate remained at 50 cents per $100 valuation, but Town Manager Gary Davis recommended a $1 increase in solid waste fees, a $1.50 increase to the flat sewer rate and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees, the mayor and town council. The recommended wage increase and rising insurance costs accounted for many of the increases to department budgets, such as bumps in the police budget from $166,500 in salaries to $170,000 and $29,000 for health insurance to $43,000.

To balance the increased costs, many departments reduced their budgets for maintenance, repair and supplies.

Lucama

Town Administrator Tammy Kessler recommended a $125,005 decrease to the budget from the current fiscal year to 2017-18 for a total of $3,174,563.

The town’s property tax rate of 50 cents per $100 valuation will stay the same, but several fees will increase. The recycling rate will increase by 50 cents to $4 a month and a $6.36 capacity charge will be levied for each resident’s sewer bill.

Kessler also recommended a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for town employees.

Black Creek

The $3,005,750 budget for fiscal year 2017-18 represents a $33,250 reduction from the current budget. The 55 cent per $100 valuation property tax rate is staying the same.

Several department budgets reflect an increase in retirement costs, wages and insurance rates. The town is planning to increase the transfer from the electric fund to the general fund from $38,950 in fiscal year 2016-17 to $64,925 in 2017-18 to balance the budget.

Kenly

Interim Town Manager Richard Hicks prepared the fiscal year 2017-18 budget for the community in Wilson and Johnston counties.

“The (2016-17) budget relied heavily on appropriation of fund balance to cover a long list of capital expenditures,” Hicks said in his budget message to elected officials. “The proposed (2017-18) budget does not include any appropriation of fund balance in either fund.”

The $2,735,333 budget does not increase the property tax rate from 61 cents per $100 valuation along and there are no changes to utility fees. A cost-of-living adjustment of 3 percent is recommended for employees, totaling $32,982 in increased wages and benefits, but the difference is made through reductions in supplies and maintenance costs.

Elm City

The northern Wilson County community has the highest property tax rate among small towns at a rate of 63 cents per $100 valuation and a fiscal year 2017-18 budget of $1,475,850.

On June 13, the town adopted the budget that also keeps water and sewer rates the same. Town Manager Jonathan Russell noted there also are two grant-funded capital projects for water and wastewater that will improve overall operation at a cost of $3.7 million.

Middlesex

The southern Nash County town has not approved its $1,312,660 proposed budget yet, with a public hearing set for 10 a.m. June 26. The budget, which keeps the property tax rate at 57 cents per $100 valuation, is $53,305 from the current fiscal budget with salary increases accounting for the majority of the difference.

Bailey

On June 12, town commissioners approved a $887,570 budget for fiscal year 2017-18, which is $524,580 less than the current budget due largely to a parks and recreation grant.

The Nash County town has the same property tax rate as Kenly at 61 cents per $100 valuation with no plans to change the rate.

Saratoga

Elected officials approved a $573,559 budget for the southeastern Wilson County community for fiscal year 2017-18.

The property tax rate at 58 cents per $100 valuation will not change. The top-funded departments are administration, including $1,300 for salaries of officials, sanitation and recreation. Only $7,000 is allocated to the town’s fire service, provided by the Sanoca Volunteer Fire Department.

Sims

Wilson’s smallest town budget also boasts the lowest property tax rate in the county at 47 cents per $100 valuation.

Town officials will meet on June 26 to vote on a $297,350 recommended budget for 2017-18, which retains the current ad valorem rate for 2018.

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821

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