City Manager Sally Sandy will present the 2015-2016 proposed budget to the Morganton City Council Monday night, June 1, 2015, during the Council’s regular meeting, and recommend the Council call a public hearing on the budget June 22, 2015.
Despite losing $215,000 in revenue, which represents 1.5 cents of the City’s tax rate, due to the NC General Assembly’s decision to eliminate the local privilege license tax, the proposed budget contains no recommended tax increase, no increase in the garbage fee, no increase in water rates, no increase in sewer rates, and no increases in internet fees or phone service fees. Sandy is recommending that electric rates be decreased by 2 percent.
“To lose a revenue of $215,000 by action of the General Assembly and not be forced to raise taxes or cut services is a testament to the decisions made two years ago in revaluation,” Sandy said. “The decision to raise taxes 5 cents then has helped sustain us. However, if the General Assembly had not taken away privilege licenses, there would be no need to appropriate any fund balance.”
The proposed total budget including the general fund, water fund, wastewater fund, electric fund, CoMPAS, and cemetery trust fund, is $72.9 million, 1 percent less than the previous year.
The proposed general fund budget is $22.2 million. Sandy recommended keeping the City tax rate at .53 cents. One cent on the tax rate generates about $158,000, and total ad valorem taxes, a.k.a. property taxes, are expected to be about $8.2 million, or 37 percent of general fund revenues.
The general fund contains $4.4 million in funding for proposed capital improvement projects including resurfacing of streets; resurfacing sections of the greenway; parking lot paving at CoMMA and Public Safety; building improvements, parking lot additions and additional tennis courts at the Mountain View Recreation Center; the final phase of the City’s Wayfinding Program; downtown islands on Sterling Street and Green Street; new patrol cars for Public Safety; and new vehicles for Public Works. It is worth noting that the capital improvement projects include $788,697 in grant funding, which reflects the City staff’s diligence and success in securing grants to benefit Morganton.
The proposed budget also includes $240,518 to help fund the Burke County Emergency Communications Center, and just over $550,000 to help fund Burke Development, Inc., the Burke County Library, the Burke County Narcotics Task Force, and the Foothills Regional Airport Authority.
The proposed budget also contains a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for City employees and a 1 percent merit fund. Although City employees have been doing more with less for the last several years, they not received merit raises since 2008, and City directors and supervisors believe that being able to reward employees who consistently perform beyond expectations is essential to keeping a well-trained and motivated workforce. However, 37 city positions still remain unfilled.