At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Marion City Council was given a recommended $10.6 million budget for fiscal year 2018-2019, which does not call for an increase in the city’s property tax rate.
In his presentation, City Manager Bob Boyette said Tuesday the proposed 2018-2019 budget of $10,692,370 is an increase of $2189,215, or 2.09 percent, over the original 2017-2018 budget. The 2018-2019 budget is a decrease of $208,086, or 1.9 percent, from the amended 2017-2018 fiscal year plan.
Marion’s property tax rate will stay at 51 cents per $100 valuation. This will be the 51st straight year that the city of Marion has not raised the property tax rate. The $.51 tax rate is projected to generate approximately $2,165,487 in revenues for real, personal and utility property, and $190,000 for motor vehicles, based on a tax collection percentage of 97 percent, which is one percent less than the projected city tax collection percentage for 2017-2018, according to Boyette’s message to council.
“Retail sales in the city and county have been good in recent years, exceeding the growth in statewide retail sales for seven of the past 11 years, and continued growth in local retail sales is expected to continue in 2018-19,” reads Boyette’s budget message to council. “Forecasts call for sales tax revenues across North Carolina to be 4.5 percent higher in 2018-19 than in 2017-18, so there is hope that the sales tax revenue estimates projected for 2018-19 are conservative and that actual sales tax collections may exceed the estimate.”
Even though the property tax rate still remains the same, city customers will pay more for their water and sewer service.
The proposed budget calls for an increase of just over 3 percent in water and sewer rates, service charges and minimum charges. “The rate increase will produce an estimated $97,590 in revenue in 2018-19. Due to water and sewer sales being more than forecasted in 2017-18, the budget projects that water and sewer sales will be $144,200, or 4.5 percent, higher than what was budgeted in 2017-18.”
Under this increase, the average inside water and sewer customer, using 5,000 gallons a month, will see their monthly water and sewer bill go up by $1.60 per month.
In the proposed budget, there is no recommended transfer from the city’s General Fund to the Water and Sewer Fund for the 10th year in a row. This means that the Water and Sewer Fund will continue to be self-sustaining, maintaining the goal City Council has had for many years, according to the budget message.
ABC revenues are expected to be $125,500, which represents a $12,500 increase from the 2017-2018 budgeted amount. This additional money is due to increased sales and improvements made to the two ABC stores in Marion. This money is designated for beautification, parks and recreation, downtown/economic development and donations to outside agencies.
The 2018-2019 budget does call for a $3 per month residential garbage fee. Boyette said this is being recommended to offset the cost of backyard residential garbage collection and other solid waste services.
The proposed budget for Marion includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living pay increase for city employees. It has a decrease in health insurance due to a change in health insurance providers. There are increases in worker’s compensation and property and liability insurance premiums.
The 2017-2018 budget calls for some new positions to be created. These include the creation of an additional maintenance worker position for the Streets Division and an additional firefighter position. The plan includes the first full year of the IT support technician and the Police Department’s training coordinator.
“It is worth noting that the recommended number of full-time equivalent city positions for the 2018-19 Fiscal Year, 98, is less than the number of full-time positions the city had during the 2007-08 Fiscal Year (99 budgeted positions), despite the city growing considerably in population since 2007,” reads Boyette’s budget message.
“I can’t brag enough on our staff and all that they do,” said Boyette. “We are a model of doing more with less.”
The proposed plan contains funding for street and sidewalk projects, a new four-wheel-drive inspection vehicle, three fully equipped police cars, building improvements for the Police Department, code enforcement expenses for dilapidated housing demolition, replacement of old turnout gear for the Fire Department, a new shed roof for the Community Building, 12 new Dumpsters for the Sanitation Division, new equipment for the water and sewer treatment plants and other equipment needs.
The plan has money for the Mountain Glory festival, the Fourth of July fireworks, downtown events and promotions, the Tailgate Market, the façade grant program and the third phase of the Catawba River greenway.
New for this budget is the $25,000 contribution from the city for the Municipal Events Center lease (with $10,000 offset by the McDowell Tourism Development Authority’s contribution to the Mountain Glory Festival). Boyette said there is an effort under way to land a corporate sponsor for the MEC. This corporate sponsor would help pay for the lease and have naming rights for the facility.
The Growing Entrepreneurs Marion (GEM) program will get $7,500 from the budget. There is also $23,000 in funding from the city of Marion to other local agencies.
City officials will continue to talk about the proposed budget, which has to be adopted by June 30. The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 22 at the City Hall to review the budget and to discuss current and future projects and priorities.
In other business, the Marion City Council:
• Recognized Rachel Withrow, owner of the Crooked Door Coffee House, as the 2017 Main Street Champion for Marion. Withrow was one of 39 people honored for their commitment to downtown improvements and strong communities during an awards breakfast held in Clayton on Thursday, March 15 by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Main Street program. Freddie Killough, director of the Marion Business Association, said Withrow is organizing a series of four summer concerts/block parties for 2018. “If there is a champion for Marion, it’s Rachel,” said Killough. “If we need something, Rachel is there,” said Boyette.
• Agreed to refer several street requests to the City Council’s Street Committee (comprised of Councilmembers Ann Harkey and Don Ramsey) for review. These items include a request for a curb ramp and crosswalk at the intersection of Fleming and Fern avenues and requests to review current parking rules on South Main Street and Lincoln Avenue. The Street Committee will look at these and give recommendations to the City Council at a future meeting.
• Approved the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 Powell Bill priorities for street resurfacing. Under the 2018-2019 plan, the priorities are Crawford Street embankment and resurfacing work for Woodlawn, Mitchell, Pineview, Greenlee, Martin and Gilkey streets and Ridgecrest Drive. There is also some patching and general work along with new striping and marking. The total for these priorities comes to $201,000. Under the 2019-2020 plan, the priorities are Ridge Street drainage and resurfacing project and street resurfacing for South Garden and South Madison streets. There will also be more patching and new striping and marking. Other streets that will need attention are Carson and North Garden as well as Morgan Terrace and Oakwood Drive. Boyette said there are numerous other streets and roads in Marion that will require new surfaces and repairs. He added he hopes Marion will get additional revenue as a result of the Mission/HCA merger to help pay for this.